Trolling the College Halls
There is a good post on VentureBeat today about finding investable opportunities in college labs. The clear message of this post is that you have to take a long-term view in university relationships. You have to be willing to invest time far in advance of finding a deal. And the volume of deals to consider is very high.
Building trust with the faculty is a key factor, too. I've tried to stay engaged at MIT over the years by teaching a few class sessions, participating in some entrepreneurial workshops, and serving as a Catalyst for the Deshpande Center and the i-Team class.
I just finished up mentoring an i-Team looking at a technology from the Media Lab at MIT. The process of working with the students was great. We had a team of Sloan students who were highly qualified for this project. They did a very thorough job analyzing various market approaches, did significant customer diligence, and came to reasonable conclusions. One of the students is likely to spend some time with the technologist to see if this can become a stand-alone business.
As a VC, you have to be willing to put in this type of effort with university students to build trust and to eventually find a deal worth investing in. By building up a good reputation at MIT, I found some deals there over the years. This past semester, I also taught a class session at Babson, in my friend Angelo's class. Students there are just as sharp. It would be great to be more involved there over time.
So, if you are interested in finding deals in university halls, be prepared to put in a lot of time first.