The Sierra Angels, Nevada's premier, early-investor funding group, is launching a new program and fund to help incubate ideas and projects created through the University of Nevada, Reno that have potential for reaching the marketplace. The recently created Sierra Innovations and its Entrepreneur Fund will facilitate the development of successful innovation-based, scalable startup companies in the northern Nevada region.
The opportunity is available to University faculty, staff and students to help them move innovations or new technologies forward.
"Many times the researchers or the students don't realize what a great commercialization opportunity they have or, if they recognize it, they don't have the experience to get it out to the marketplace," Bob Goff, Sierra Angels president and founder, said.
For selected projects or concepts, Sierra Innovations will provide what Goff calls value-add knowledge. In addition to this early-stage counseling, coaching and mentoring, Sierra Innovations will generate business connections and help assess marketplace interest and positioning.
"It is a two-step program completed in partnership with the entrepreneur or inventor," Goff said. "When they successfully graduate from this program - so to speak - they are virtually assured to receive funding to support product launch."
The Sierra Angels see this as the right time and place for a program of this kind. "The elements of the (innovation) ecosystem are ready and the region is grabbing traction," Goff said. "Major linkages are in place to enable this to be successful. This includes the research and innovation enterprise at the University - the (University of Nevada, Reno Innevation Center-Powered by Switch) and the Nevada Center for Applied Research and the proactive people directing them. From our organization, to the University and its colleges, and to EDAWN, the alignment is in place."
"The University shares the Sierra Angels' vision that when innovation and entrepreneurship are encouraged within our higher-education settings, there is tremendous potential to drive high quality job creation, economic growth and quality of life," Mridul Gautam, University vice president for research and innovation, said. "The creation of Sierra Innovations is an acknowledgment of the talent, energy and continued potential of University of Nevada, Reno faculty, staff and students."
One of the nation's first five angel investing groups, Sierra Angels proactively collaborates with regional economic-development and education organizations to accelerate economic progress. Its 50 members are all highly experienced entrepreneurs or corporate executives. Sierra Angels member Leonard Lafrance serves as director of Sierra Innovations.