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UM System invests in innovative venture capital fund, student entrepreneurs

Updated: Aug 9, 2023

NOTE: Scale VC is now Redbud VC

$1 million UM System anchor investment bolsters $5 million venture capital fund for student entrepreneurs and early-stage companies.

Columbia, Mo.— The University of Missouri System is helping remove roadblocks for student entrepreneurs and increase venture capital investments in early-stage companies through a new, innovative partnership with Scale VC. Leveraging the successful Griggs Innovators Nexus in the MU Student Center, the collaboration will establish a business accelerator which will support early-stage, growth-driven companies through education, mentorship and financing.

“This is an opportunity for the university to foster economic development and create more jobs across Missouri and the Midwest,” said Michael Williams, chair of the UM Board of Curators. “The partnership exposes our students to the expertise and connections of highly successful business partners and advisers, and it allows us to invest in their entrepreneurial careers after graduation.”

Scale VC, a Columbia-based, early-stage venture capital fund and studio, is expanding its support of startup companies after raising a $5 million venture capital fund, including a $1 million anchor investment from the UM System and investments from 33 limited partners.

This fall, students from the four UM System universities can take advantage of the business accelerator, sponsored by Scale VC and EquipmentShare, to speed the startup of young innovative companies, potentially compressing years’ worth of learning-by-doing into just a few months.

“This investment and partnership build upon our efforts to turn the UM System and our state into an innovation destination — a place where big thinkers can start and grow their transformational ideas,” said Mun Choi, president of the University of Missouri. “I am proud that our universities are helping build the next generation of high-growth companies in Missouri.”

Scale VC was founded in 2021 by mid-Missouri entrepreneurs and business leaders to help cultivate the habits, skills and networks that founders need to develop successful companies. Their aim is to create a “Silicon Valley-effect,” or innovation hub, in the middle of the country by empowering student and alumni talent from the UM System.

A number of industry-disrupting businesses, including EquipmentShare, Zapier, Veterans United and StoryUp Studios, that were founded by MU alumni, are now involved with Scale VC. Currently, nine startups founded by alumni are working with Scale VC.

The new business accelerator will complement other entrepreneurial resources across MU like:

  • Entrepreneurship Alliance — an 8-week, intensive program offered by the Center for Entrepreneurship and Innovation housed in the Trulaske College of Business, designed to help students launch their startup or business idea.

  • Darby Fellowship for Entrepreneurship and Innovation — built to support student entrepreneurs, providing additional mentoring, networking opportunities, professional development funding (travel to conferences, memberships, training) or small grants for startup/prototype costs.

  • Retail storefronts and incubator office space — supported through the Griggs Innovators Nexus, these spaces provide opportunities for students to gain hands-on experience in running a brick-and-mortar store or an office to launch e-commerce, software or other online ventures that do not require physical storefronts.

  • Certificate in life science innovation and entrepreneurship — an online graduate certificate designed to translate biomedical research and life science discoveries into products and services that will improve health.

“We are on a mission to empower founders to build generational wealth from the middle of the country, random suburbs or even existing innovation hubs,” said Brett Calhoun, Scale VC managing director and partner. “Successful founders are everywhere — and that includes right here in the heart of the country.”


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