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17 October 2016

Opportunities abound for entrepreneurs

Sydney University has put $1m into a student-founded accelerator as Phoenix University opened its innovation hub RedFlint and Harvard University's Jeff Bussgang unveiled a $2.5m fund.

Author: Thierry Heles, editor

For entrepreneurs in academia looking for support, the past week added several new opportunities, beginning on Thursday with a $2.5m fund to be managed by Jeff Bussgang, a senior lecturer at Harvard Business School.

Bussgang, also a general partner at early-stage venture capital firm Flybridge Capital Partners, will be in charge of the Graduate Syndicate, which will target startups founded by recent graduates of Harvard Business School, according to BostInno. The fund will invest in pre-seed and seed-stage companies, providing funding in $100,000 increments.

The fund has some 20 limited partners, who are all either fellow professors at the school or alumni of Harvard. It will focus particularly on the technology, internet and mobile sectors.

Bussgang will handle all investment decisions himself, meaning the Graduate Syndicate will essentially offer the agility of a single angel investor. The approach is striking perhaps, but means startups will benefit from cash quickly at a stage of their development when every moment counts.

Bussgang, who has witnessed the creation of hundreds of startups during the six years he has been a lecturer at Harvard, said: "At Flybridge, we joked that if I were an angel investor, I would have written a check to these seed, pre-seed student ventures myself. Now, we have decided to do exactly that, but in the form of a syndicate."

Meanwhile, Phoenix University opened an innovation hub called RedFlint Centre, which will support both startups and established companies, on Friday.

The centre, in Las Vegas, also operates an accelerator in collaboration with investment firm Iron Yard Ventures.

The cohort of seven startups includes Build, a platform to set up e-commerce businesses, gambling titles developer Guru Games, blue-collar jobseeking app developer JobElf, care package delivery service MentalHappy and interactive display producer Nobal Technologies.

SidePrize, a digital payments provider for fantasy sports, and Snagg, a search engine for local deals, are also taking part in the Iron Yard Ventures Hospitality and Gaming Accelerator. The program started on September 12 and will last 13 weeks.

RedFlint also provides free workshops, professional development opportunities and an incubation space.

Finally, Sydney University announced it was putting $1m into Incubate, according to Financial Review. Incubate is an accelerator launched by students four years ago that has already raised more than $7m in venture capital and fostered startups which have gone on to secure a combined $32m in funding to date.

Incubate invests $5,000 in each startup, while the university also offers office space.

Sydney University's commitment will be invested over the next five years, enabling the accelerator to accept more applicants and help the general student population launch ventures, such as through short courses outside the formal program.

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