This past fall, Virginia Tech's Center for Innovation and Entrepreneurship launched a new program dedicated to funding startups that are owned, operated or invested in by other Hokies. The Virginia Tech Investor Network (VTIN) was launched on November 5 as "an investor group formed to fund the next generation of Hokie-led technology companies."
VTIN is a program of the Center for Innovation and Entrepreneurship, which is based out of Virginia Tech's Pamplin College of Business. The center provides students with a diverse set of opportunities to learn about entrepreneurship through hands-on experience and meeting with industry professionals. It also runs the Innovate community, a living-learning community designed to enable and encourage student entrepreneurship.
“The goal of the Virginia Tech investor network is Hokies funding Hokies,” said director of the Apex Systems Center for Innovation and Entrepreneurship Derick Maggard. “Hokie investors funding Hokie-led startup companies.”
The network invests in firms run by Virginia Tech affiliates.
“The startup companies can be led by a student, faculty member, staff member or by an alumni,” Maggard said.
VTIN has grown significantly since its inception, it currently has 76 members with continued intense interest from around the country.
“There are a lot of folks who want to do chapters all over the nation and we are looking at an expansion plan,” Maggard said. Members of the network must be U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission-accredited investors affiliated with Virginia Tech.
This past February, the network hosted its first investor pitch, and in April VTIN passed a significant mile-marker as it led a round of seed investing, raising $1.5 million for a Hokie led startup, ThreatQuotient, a cyber security firm co-founded in March 2013 by Virginia Tech graduate, Wayne Chiang. This is the first investment that VTIN has made since its founding.
The capital will be used by the firm to increase marketing outreach and effectiveness to improve the company’s innovative cybersecurity platform named ThreatQ.
The official website describes the product as a "threat intelligence platform that streamlines, correlates and analyzes critical threat intelligence from across the globe, enabling security teams to collaborate and make more informed decisions regarding their security posture."
“We have students who are working with the alumni on doing due diligence … and we hope to expand that in the future,” Maggard said. “We absolutely want students involved in the process so they can see it from start to finish, what it takes to pitch an investor, to receiving investment and what deal terms really look like.”
The Virginia Tech Investor Network is actively looking for new firms to invest in.
“We have looked at eight companies so far,” Maggard said, “and ... between now and the end of the year we will probably look at another 15.”
“At the end of the day, VTIN is solving a huge problem, in connecting Hokie led startup companies with their peers, their Hokie alums, their Hokie friends," Maggard said. "To me that is a powerful connection that can be made because it is way more than just money -- it's friendships, it's mentor-ships, it's opportunities to help grow the companies, it's advisory boards of Hokie alum, of people that you know you can trust, and at the end of the day you don't get that with any other investment firm or investment network that you are going to go with.”