PITTSBURGH, June 19, 2012 /PRNewswire/ -- Carnegie Mellon University's Open Field Entrepreneurs Fund (OFEF) has awarded $500,000 to 10 startup companies from across the U.S. to assist them in growing their business ventures. Announced last year, the fund was established by CMU alumnus and Flip Video Camera creator Jonathan Kaplan and his wife, Marci Glazer, to provide early-stage business financing and support to alumni who have graduated from CMU in the last five years.
The companies, whose locations range from New York to Silicon Valley, operate in a variety of industries, including medical, technology, consumer and educational fields. Following CMU's focus on solving real-world problems, the companies' objectives include everything from reducing hospital-acquired infections and preventing vision loss in children to improving math and science education and making the wait for a restaurant table less frustrating.
"Carnegie Mellon graduates have what it takes to create great companies," said Kaplan, CEO of The Melt and five-time entrepreneur. "But without money and mentoring these young adults can often take jobs instead of taking risks. I want them to dream big and create the next great product or service just like I did."
OFEF is part of CMU's Greenlighting Startups initiative, which is designed to speed CMU faculty and student innovations from the research lab to the marketplace. Since Kaplan announced his fund last year, CMU has received more than $15 million to support Greenlighting Startups.
"Jonathan is truly a visionary, both as an entrepreneur and a philanthropist," said CMU President Jared L. Cohon. "His generous gift has spurred the continuing growth of Greenlighting Startups, allowing us to provide further support to students and alumni who are creating the types of companies and jobs that serve as the country's economic engine."
CMU's entrepreneurial culture has helped to create more than 300 companies and 9,000 jobs over the past 15 years, and CMU spinoffs represent 34 percent of the total companies created in Pennsylvania based on university technologies in the past five years.
The OFEF provides $50,000 in matching funds to each recipient, who also gain access to other funding sources, receive personalized mentoring and attend an annual OFEF business workshop. The university will provide legal and accounting support for OFEF recipients. Peter Stern, a CMU classmate of Kaplan, president of Bitly and a serial entrepreneur, will be providing advisory support for the fund, as well as serving as a mentor to one of the OFEF award recipients. The fund will select award recipients biannually.
Mentors will be assigned to each OFEF award recipient, including select CMU alumni. In addition to Kaplan and Stern, CMU alumni mentors such as Jonathan Schwartz, the former CEO of SUN Microsystems and current founder and CEO of CareZone, and Alan Chung, four-time entrepreneur and current founder and CEO of Perka, Inc., will be providing counsel to the chosen startup companies. Mentors also will include serial entrepreneurs who are based at Carnegie Mellon, including CMU Vice President of Research Rick McCullough, who has founded two companies, and OFEF Managing Director Dave Mawhinney, a professor of entrepreneurship and four-time entrepreneur.
About Carnegie Mellon University: Carnegie Mellon (www.cmu.edu) is a private, internationally ranked research university with programs in areas ranging from science, technology and business, to public policy, the humanities and the arts. More than 11,000 students in the university's seven schools and colleges benefit from a small student-to-faculty ratio and an education characterized by its focus on creating and implementing solutions for real problems, interdisciplinary collaboration and innovation. A global university, Carnegie Mellon's main campus in the United States is in Pittsburgh, Pa. It has campuses in California's Silicon Valley and Qatar, and programs in Asia, Australia, Europe and Mexico. The university is in the midst of "Inspire Innovation: The Campaign for Carnegie Mellon University," which aims to build its endowment, support faculty, students and innovative research, and enhance the physical campus with equipment and facility improvements.
SOURCE Carnegie Mellon University