Investing in Innovation

Investing in Innovation

Jonathan Kaplan

Carnegie Mellon University's Open Field Entrepreneurs Fund (OFEF) has awarded $300,000 to six startup companies to assist them in growing their business ventures.

The fund, established by CMU alumnus and Flip Video Camera creator Jonathan Kaplan and his wife, Marci Glazer, provides early-stage business financing and support to alumni who have graduated from CMU in the last five years.

Since June 2012, the OFEF has provided support to 16 startup companies from across the country and a variety of industries. The most recent award recipients operate in medical, technology, consumer and educational fields.

The companies' objectives include everything from reducing back pain and improving pediatric heart surgery to creating a premium gluten-free beer and teaching guitar online.

"Open Field is dedicated to helping Carnegie Mellon graduates dream big and create the next great product or service," said Kaplan, CEO of The Melt and five-time entrepreneur. "We are pleased to provide these investments and encouraged by the success previous Open Field recipients have experienced in just a few short months."

OFEF is part of CMU's Greenlighting Startups initiative, which is designed to speed CMU faculty and student innovations from the research lab to the marketplace.

CMU's entrepreneurial culture has helped to create more than 300 companies and 9,000 jobs over the past 15 years, and CMU spinoffs represent 34 percent of the total companies created in Pennsylvania based on university technologies in the past five years.

The OFEF provides $50,000 in matching investment to each recipient, who also gain access to other funding sources, receive personalized mentoring and attend an annual OFEF business workshop.

The university will provide legal and accounting support for OFEF recipients. Peter Stern, CEO of bitly, a CMU classmate of Kaplan, and a serial entrepreneur, provides advisory support for the fund, as well as serves as a mentor to one of the OFEF award recipients. The fund selects award recipients biannually.

Mentors are assigned to each OFEF award recipient, including select CMU alumni who are serial entrepreneurs who have helped to create an excess of $1 billion in shareholder value.

Mentors also include entrepreneurs who are based at CMU, including OFEF Managing Director Dave Mawhinney,  and a professor of entrepreneurship at Tepper's Donald H. Jones Center for Entrepreneurship.

Greenlighting Startups Greenlighting Startups is uniquely designed to support CMU's culture of entrepreneurship and new business creation. Learn more »


Related Links: Read more | Stern Advice | Greenlighting Startups | Center for Technology Transfer and Enterprise Creation | Don Jones Center for Entrepreneurship