A group of UW-Madison alumni is trying to create a fund that would boost entrepreneurship in Wisconsin, one of the alums said Wednesday.
Sanjeev Chitre, of The U-Group consultant firm in Milpitas, Calif., said several alumni in Wisconsin and California are working on establishing a so-called turbo value exit fund. It would give a financial push to companies with promising technologies and position them for an exit strategy — for example, by having the company or its product purchased by a major corporation — within 24 months.
“The purpose here is to create local wealth,” Chitre said, so the gains could fuel the growth of more entrepreneurs.
Chitre said the group plans to choose three to 10 companies for the program, and hopes to have the fund in place by the end of the year. He said the state would have to be a partner.
“There has to be state investment; nothing comes free,” Chitre said. “If the state believes in its companies, it better put its money where its mouth is.”
Chitre’s comments came in an interview after a panel discussion at the Wisconsin Entrepreneurs’ Conference. He was one of four UW-Madison alums, now entrepreneurs and investors in California, who gave their advice to the gathering.
The Silicon Valley Badgers, as conference organizers nicknamed them, said Wisconsin should not try to be another Silicon Valley or Austin, Texas, but instead should build on its existing strengths.
UW-Madison is “one of the best (universities) in the world,” with a core competence in engineering, computer science and business, said Norman Koo, executive adviser at Liberty Global, Inc.
Even though Wisconsin attracts fewer investment dollars than many other states, “you guys spent more on venture investing than the entire country of Spain,” said Roy Thiele-Sardina of HighBAR Partners, a Palo Alto, Calif., venture fund.
A report by the Wisconsin Technology Council shows investors funneled nearly $163.5 million into emerging state companies in 2012 — up from $152.9 million in 2011 — with some funds from as far as the Netherlands and China.
Mark Reinstra, a partner with the Wilson Sonsini Goodrich & Rosati law firm in San Francisco, said being loyal to a company is fine but if you have a better product idea, go for it. “The need for passion can’t be understated,” he said.
Mark Bugher, director of University Research Park, said if Wisconsin wants to be an entrepreneurial center, it should embrace the concept of making money.
“Celebrating wealth creation and not denigrating wealth is an issue policymakers have to pay attention to,” he said.
About 500 people attended the two-day conference at the Marriott Madison West, in Middleton, which wrapped up Wednesday afternoon.