ITU Business Innovators
Entrepreneurship has been part of the IT University DNA since day one and last year ITU Business Development A/S was established to support researchers and students wanting to start their own businesses. It’s still the early days, but expectations and ambitions are high and support great.
Back in September the IT University launched ITU Business Development A/S (ITU BD), a startup accelerator for entrepreneurs affiliated with the university. The IT University has invested DKK five million of its equity in the private company which will support students and researchers who wish to cultivate the field between academia and industry, and most likely good ideas will be plenty.
Since ITU’s beginning more than 100 businesses have sprung from the university environment and in October a report showed
that ITU hatches most entrepreneurs relative to student numbers. Three times more than the University of Copenhagen and roughly double that of Copenhagen Business School in fact.
Everyone I’ve spoken to think the decision to establish ITU BD is sensible and important to the evolution of the existing, well functioning entrepreneurial environment.
Kristine Helen Falgren, CEO, ITU Business Development «
It’s still the early days for ITU Business Development, and while several investment possibilities have already landed on the desk of CEO Kristine Helen Falgren most of the effort is still concentrated on creating a solid foundation for the new company.
“We haven’t invested directly in any projects yet. Our focus so far has been on starting a dialogue with stakeholders, establish a good working relationship within the board, and to secure the legal and administrative framework so that the company’s operative. Also, we’ve devised a business model which at a minimum will ensure break-even in 2015. This has resulted in one contract with ITU and two more are almost in place, all of which will generate income for the company,” Falgren says.
An important decision
According to Kristine Helen Falgren the reception of the new initiative has been overwhelmingly positive and already there’s contact with both current and former students, researchers and external industry people. Among those potential investors and people in the innovative environments at the other Danish universities.
“Everyone I’ve spoken to think the decision to establish ITU BD is sensible and important to the evolution of the existing, well functioning entrepreneurial environment. So, many are looking to us to see where it goes, and many have already offered their assistance and help in making the company a success,” she says.
One obvious collaborator for ITU BD is ITU Innovators and the two have established an informal partnership. Kristine Helen Falgren sees Innovators as the most important partner in relation to student entrepreneurs and Innovators chairman, Nikolaj Hass, has welcomed the investment company.
“We are very happy with the dialogue with Kristine as we’re obviously interested in seeing the money spent well. We’ve tried to help with greater insight into the student entrepreneurial environment in Copenhagen as well as informing on the problems and wishes ITU students have to better their opportunities to become entrepreneurs,” says Nikolaj Hass, who sees ITU BD as a natural extension to Innovators with possibility to support startups further on their journey than Innovators have the resources to.
A logical food chain
You might say that a food chain is taking shape. Either way both Falgren and Hass call it logical that a student with an entrepreneurial dream first take advantage of Innovators to develop the idea and establish a network and perhaps even set up a team, before coming to ITU BD for a possible investment which could lift the idea to a startup or give a startup a more secure financial foundation.
“ITU Business Development is a unique partner among the many initiatives at the Danish universities as it is the only organisation ready to invest cash in student startups. This gives students financial opportunity to work with their startup without having to scrounge through life or to obtain equipment the average student can’t afford,” says Nikolaj Hass and is backed by Kristine Helen Falgren who adds that ITU BD and Innovators together ensure that no matter where a student is in a startup process there’ll always be someone to turn to for help and advice.
The groundwork has been laid and in 2015 we will most likely see the first projects and results. Time will tell what they’ll be, but ambitions for ITU BD are high and already the CEO and board are working on being able to make larger investments than the initial bag of money allows.
“It’s an explicit wish of the board to investigate whether Danish investors have an interest in partaking in a foundation with ITU Business Development - a foundation that will be able to undertake larger and more risky investments than we can today - and in 2015 we will engage in a dialogue with external stakeholders who could see value in being involved with the entrepreneurial environment at ITU,” says Kristine Helen Falgren.