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ASU announces new network to connect startups with potential investors

The Thunderbird Investor Network will expand upon previous work from the School of Global Management

Downtown Phoenix new home to Global Management School

An artist's rendering displays the Thunderbird School of Global Management's new building located near ASU's downtown Phoenix campus. The Thunderbird School will be home to the Thunderbird Investor Network.

President Michael Crow unveiled a new plan to connect entrepreneurs at ASU with investment funding through the Thunderbird School of Global Management. 

This system, which is expected to get off the ground in the fall of this year, will be called the ASU Thunderbird Investor Network and is an extension of a previous Thunderbird network that was in place. Crow announced the network as part of the University’s Founders Day in March.

“At the core, the goal is to connect investors with the company they will be investing in,” said Jeff Mindlin, the vice president of investments for the ASU Enterprise Partners. “We want to be a successful conduit that helps elevate entrepreneurship and innovation in the community.”

The network will function both as a traditional angel investment platform, hosting in-person pitches between investors and companies, and as a more advanced online system. This way, those who cannot attend the meetings will not be left out. The system will also work to help ASU alumni in their work. 

“There hasn’t been as much to help alumni in their ventures after they left campus," Mindlin said. "The main role where I feel this network will fit in is by providing support for alumni who have gone out into the world and have creative ideas and are trying to gather funding to take that to the next level.”

Founded in 1946, the Thunderbird School of Global Management was acquired by ASU in 2015. Its existing network of investors, Mindlin estimated 10 to 20, will be combined with ASU-associated investors to form a network of more than 100 members.

"Part of the idea for this goes back to the existing network over at Thunderbird,” Mindlin said. “Obviously, they don’t have nearly the scale that (ASU does), so the idea is to bring together what has been a very successful program for (Thunderbird) and taking that to the next level.”

Sophia Collier, a technological entrepreneurship and management sophomore and co-founder and CEO of LiveVibe, a multimedia lifestyle and entertainment startup, said many startups could benefit from more opportunities for funding.

“A lot of the problems associated with startups and why they fail is due to a lack of funding in the beginning stages,” Collier said. “When you’re trying to prototype your product to show to investors, it can be really hard as a college student living on a budget.”

Programs at ASU such as Venture Devils have helped some students find this early money, but Collier said the Venture Devils weren't very helpful to them.

The new network will help provide access and filtering but is not meant to be an investment recommendation from ASU, Mindlin said. He said this provides opportunity for finance and venture capital discipline students to gain experience in evaluating real companies.

Dan Campbell, a robotics engineering junior and the founder of ReneGait, a startup that designs and produces rehabilitation-centered medical equipment for the neurologically disabled, reiterated Collier’s comments.

“It’s not fairly difficult to get small amounts of money to begin early development, but to get significant cash flow and accelerating your development process is fairly rare," Campbell said. "Not a lot of people get more than a couple hundred or thousand bucks.”

Campbell, like Collier, has been successful in finding investment money. However, he believes this new network will aid in finding diverse investors for the next crop of ASU students.

“The people who I pitched to most of the time were local business gurus,” Campbell said. “I would imagine this new network will make it much easier for those like myself seeking funding.”

Mindlin said the network plans to bring together members and companies from all over the country and world, not just in Arizona.

Further details, such as an exact launch date and how many investors will participate will be released at a later date. 

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