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Entrepreneurs Wanted: New Open Field Entrepreneurs Fund To Jumpstart
Creation of Innovative Businesses by Carnegie Mellon Graduates
Flip Video Founder, CMU Alumnus Jonathan Kaplan Leads Way With Major Financial Support
PITTSBURGH—After revolutionizing the consumer electronics industry with his Flip video camera, Jonathan Kaplan is now further energizing the entrepreneurial spirit at his alma mater, Carnegie Mellon University. Carnegie Mellon announced today that Kaplan and his wife, Marci Glazer, have provided a substantial financial gift to create the Open Field Entrepreneurs Fund
(OFEF) at Carnegie Mellon University, which will provide early-stage business financing to alumni who have graduated from CMU within the past five years.
"On behalf of Carnegie Mellon, I would like to thank Jonathan Kaplan and his family for their generous gift," said Carnegie Mellon President Jared L. Cohon. "This fund is a living gift that will continue to provide benefits far into the future. Through the success of start-up ventures created by our alumni, this gift will play a central role in using innovation to spur economic growth."
"Our goal with this effort is to provide Carnegie Mellon graduates with the opportunity to realize their innovative spirit and start new businesses," said Kaplan, former CEO of Pure Digital and five-time entrepreneur. "We'd like to make Carnegie Mellon the destination of choice for young entrepreneurs."
While not disclosing the value of his gift, Kaplan, who earned a bachelor's degree in business administration from Carnegie Mellon in 1990, said he anticipates the fund to eventually reach $25 million within the first five years.
"My colleagues and former classmates are very interested in joining me in our effort to fund young entrepreneurs and help them to create exciting new businesses in all areas and disciplines," he said.
Peter Stern, a CMU classmate of Kaplan, founder of Datek Online and another successful serial entrepreneur, also will be providing financial and advisory support for the OFEF.
An independent advisory committee including both Kaplan and Stern will be appointed annually to approve and mentor applicants for the OFEF. Applicants must present a business plan to the committee for review, outline how they will use Open Field funding and agree to become part of the Open Field Entrepreneurs incubation environment. The OFEF will provide $50,000 in matching funds to recipients.
Kaplan noted that the fund is not a business plan competition, in which only entrepreneurs with the best ideas receive funding. Instead, it's open to recent CMU graduates who have the desire to become entrepreneurs. In addition to receiving financial support, OFEF recipients will 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.
"It is just wonderful that the advisory council isn't going to pass judgment solely on business ideas," Kaplan said. "We are going to judge if entrepreneurs are passionate about what they want to do, if they have a plan to execute against, and if they are able to raise money externally from people who believe in them. Then we'll give them the tools and technology to help them achieve their goals."
Carnegie Mellon has enjoyed tremendous success in nurturing ideas and innovations into commercial enterprises. The university's faculty and students have helped to create 200 companies and 9,000 jobs in the last 15 years. CMU spin-offs represent 34 percent of the total companies created in Pennsylvania based on university technologies in the past five years.
"One of Carnegie Mellon's greatest strengths is its 'innovation ecosystem' — turning ideas and innovations into next generation businesses that spur economic growth and development," said Rick McCullough, vice president of research at CMU and founder of Plextronics, a CMU start-up company that is now the world leader in developing active layer technology for printed electronic devices. "The Open Field Entrepreneurs Fund fits perfectly with our goal of encouraging young alumni to start their own businesses by providing not only financial support, but also the counsel of experienced entrepreneurs who understand the challenges of beginning a new venture."
Later this year, CMU will create and launch an online application for alumni to submit their proposals. To learn more about the OFEF, visit www.cmu.edu/openfield