Progress Minnesota 2013

Wednesday, April 17, 2013

The Opus College of Business' William C. Norris Institute is one of Finance & Commerce’s 27 honorees for the second-annual Progress Minnesota program. The program recognizes individuals, businesses and organizations that are driving business and industrial growth and economic development in Minnesota in innovative ways. Gov. Mark Dayton also proclaimed April 16 as Progress Minnesota Day, when the honorees were feted at an event.

Mission: To stimulate commercialization of Minnesota companies using innovative technologies that address important unmet needs.

Economic impact: Invested nearly $4 million into 41 new ventures, leading to more than $30 million from later investors. These new ventures had total revenue of more than $27 million in 2012.

The William C. Norris Institute invests only in ventures that are able to do well and do good.

When he retired from Control Data Corp. in 1986, former CEO Bill Norris founded the seed-money investment fund to fuel technology startups that would benefit society. In 2001, he moved it to the University of St. Thomas.

The nonprofit institute invests in four to five companies a year from a field of 50 to 60 applicants, according to director Michael P. Moore.

The university’s MBA students do the due diligence on the companies. Moore analyzes the information and sends a report to Opus College of Business Dean Chris Puto and St. Thomas CFO Mark Vangsgard. If they approve, the institute invests $50,000 to $75,000 into each company that’s seeking a total of up to $500,000 and shares information about it with angel investors who might contribute more.

For example, Moore pushed for an investment in IGF Oncology, which develops chemotherapy drugs to be less toxic and more effective than existing treatments. The institute’s $50,000 investment in animal testing attracted another investment five times greater to fund clinical trials, which Moore said look promising.

The institute has invested more than $3.8 million in startup businesses and has helped preserve or generate more than 205 full-time and 1,600 part-time jobs, Moore said. Recipients have attracted more than $30 million from other investors and developed socially valuable, innovative technologies in computing, health care, clean technology, security and other areas.

Returns from loans and equity total more than $1 million with an additional book value of equity and debt in current portfolio companies of $2.79 million. All returns are deposited back into the fund.

“It’s a validation of seed investing in an academic environment,” Moore said. “It could be used as a model for just about every other university with a business school.”

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Originally published: 04/17/2013, Finance and Commerce