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‘Duke Angel Network’ To Connect Alumni Investors With Duke-Affiliated Startups

Network will work alongside new philanthropic fund to begin making investments later this year

Duke University is establishing a network of alumni experts to provide investment capital and other support to help entrepreneurs start companies and create jobs based on research, technology and business ideas that come out of the university community, school officials announced Wednesday.

The "Duke Angel Network" will provide Duke’s global community of entrepreneurs, early-stage investors, researchers and educators with resources to move new ideas into the marketplace -- notably with much-needed investment capital, but also with mentoring and other services. Simultaneously, a new philanthropic Duke Innovation Fund will invest alongside the angel network to expand the funds available for companies receiving support.

"The Duke Angel Network will catalyze Duke’s vibrant entrepreneurial community and support innovation throughout our global family," said Eric Toone, vice provost and director of Duke’s campus-wide Innovation and Entrepreneurship (I&E) Initiative, which will oversee the new effort. "We expect to help create and expand dozens of Duke-based entrepreneurial projects through this platform."

"This is a powerful example of how universities can impact the economic landscape and support entrepreneurial activity that is vital to our economic future," said David Rubenstein, chairman of Duke’s board of trustees and a member of the network’s advisory board of leading entrepreneurs and venture investors, which will guide its strategy, operations and portfolio growth.  

Toone said Duke will soon begin seeking angel investors to participate in the network, as well as donors to support the philanthropic innovation fund, to which the university has made an initial commitment of $2 million. The network plans to begin making investments later this year, he said.

"The Duke Angel Network offers an incredible source of Duke-connected investment opportunities for investors who are eager to help fellow members of the Duke community grow companies with capital and support," said Kip Frey, professor of the practice of law and public policy and senior strategist for translation services at Duke I&E.

The network will draw heavily on the participation and expertise of Duke alumni, more than 700 of whom are currently registered on AngelList, a leading website for the entrepreneurial community. Noting that Duke’s Global Entrepreneurship Network (DukeGEN) now sees between 50 and 100 investment opportunities annually from alumni, faculty and staff in the United States, Toone predicted the new Duke Angel Network would attract 150 angel investors within the first three years.

"The I&E initiative has already had a big impact on our university -- providing opportunities for students to learn about entrepreneurship, helping faculty commercialize innovations and encouraging startups that produce jobs in North Carolina and around the world," said Duke President Richard Brodhead. "We’ve heard from people across this community that one of the biggest barriers is a lack of investment capital. This new network is addressing that challenge directly by drawing on one of Duke’s greatest resources, namely its alumni and other supporters."