Carnegie Mellon University
June 01, 2011

Press Release: Carnegie Mellon Launches "Greenlighting Startups" Initiative

With Innovative Culture in Place, CMU Gives Entrepreneurs a Head Start on Success

Contact: Ken Walters / 412-268-1151 /

Greenlighting logoPITTSBURGH—Carnegie Mellon University today introduced "Greenlighting Startups," a new initiative aimed at accelerating CMU's already impressive record of turning campus innovations into sustainable new businesses. Since 2004, CMU has doubled the number of start-up companies created by its faculty and students and now stands as one of the fastest growing entrepreneurial institutions in the United States.

Greenlighting Startups, a portfolio of five new and existing campus incubators, is uniquely designed to further speed the organic growth of company creation at CMU. This initiative creates multiple portals through which the university can help turn research from award-winning professors and world-class students into thriving companies that provide new jobs and solve real-world problems. With Greenlighting Startups, CMU will be in a stronger position to serve as an engine for commercializing innovation, job growth and new business creation.

"Carnegie Mellon has always attracted faculty and students with the best ideas and innovations," said Rick McCullough, vice president of research at Carnegie Mellon. "The Greenlighting Startups initiative is part of the entrepreneurial culture at CMU that helps to take those innovations and make them a reality in the marketplace, creating companies and jobs in the process."

The five Greenlighting Startups groups include the Center for Technology Transfer and Enterprise Creation (CTTEC); the Donald H. Jones Center for Entrepreneurship; Project Olympus; Quality of Life Technology Foundry; and the Open Field Entrepreneurs Fund (OFEF). In the past 15 years, CMU has helped to create more than 200 new companies, adding approximately 9,000 new jobs to the U.S. economy. In Pennsylvania alone, CMU spin-offs represent 34 percent of the total companies created based on university technologies in the past five years. Through Greenlighting Startups, the university is now poised to leverage its track record and experience to exponentially grow those numbers.

While some CMU incubators like CTTEC have been around for more than a decade, others like OFEF, which launched in May 2011, are more recent. OFEF is a key component of the Greenlighting Startups initiative, as it will serve as the backbone to making CMU a destination of choice for young entrepreneurs. The fund will provide early-stage business financing to alumni who have graduated from CMU within the past five years, and may also serve to attract prospective students who are interested in starting their own businesses to CMU.

Each incubator group has a distinct value proposition to support budding entrepreneurs, and together they provide a campus-wide infrastructure of resources for transforming ideas into marketable products and services. Companies such as Google, Apple, Disney and Intel have taken notice of CMU's entrepreneurial success and have opened labs and/or offices on campus in the past few years.

By and large, what attracts entrepreneurial professors and students to CMU is a liberating technology commercialization philosophy.  This underlying philosophy, dubbed "Five Percent, Go in Peace" serves as CMU's technology transfer model and is the driving force behind Greenlighting Startups. Developed on the Carnegie Mellon campus, "Five Percent, Go in Peace" is a first-of-its-kind spinoff-model for academia that has, itself, become one of the university's great inventions.

"The goal of Five Percent, Go In Peace, was to create a transparent, expedient and easy to understand process that minimizes extensive negotiations," said Carnegie Mellon Provost and Executive Vice President Mark S. Kamlet. "Through this unique model, we have simplified our approach to free entrepreneurs so they can do what they do best."

The "Five Percent, Go in Peace" model not only attracts top talent globally, but also helps solidify CMU's position as the U.S. leader in turning federal and state funding into sustainable economic growth. CMU ranks first among all American universities without a medical school in the number of startup companies created per research dollar spent since 2007, according to the Association of University Technology Managers.

CMU start-up success stories include companies such as reCAPTCHA, inventors of the swirling letters computer users retype to validate websites, which was acquired by Google in 2009; Plextronics, the world leader in active layer technology for printed electronic devices; and First Person Vision, which develops wearable visual devices to help the elderly and those with disabilities maintain independence.

To herald this exciting collaborative of business incubators, CMU has designed and unveiled a new graphic and wordmark for its Greenlighting Startups initiative. For more information about Greenlighting Startups, visit