Caltech launched an internal venture fund, The Caltech Seed Fund (CSF), to support the commercialization of Caltech technologies. The Fund deploys around $1.5M per year over a 5 to 6 year period. The Seed Fund makes 4-6 investments each year, typically investing between $100K and $500K per company, using a SAFE investment vehicle. There will be no follow-on investing from the CSF beyond the initial investment. The Caltech Seed Fund's purpose is to supply pre-seed and seed capital to help promising new Caltech companies achieve milestones that will allow them to secure a priced round within 12-18 months. The Caltech Seed Fund partners with an externally managed co-investment fund, the Wilson Hill Fund (WHF), on a significant number of investments in order to amplify the Caltech Seed Fund's impact on pre-seed/seed stage startups based on Caltech/JPL technology.
The mission of Caltech is to expand human knowledge and benefit society through research integrated with education. The CSF will further enable society to benefit from the technological innovations developed at Caltech/JPL by increasing the number and success rate of companies bringing products and services to market that are based on Caltech technology. Commercialization is an important component of Caltech's desire to share its innovation with the world, and the university is rapidly moving in that direction with new centers that are translational in nature. The CSF complements these existing efforts.
The Caltech Seed Fund Executive Committee (FXC)
The Caltech Seed Fund will invest across all areas of technology from Caltech/JPL. The investments will follow the research where strong commercialization opportunities exist. Examples of technology areas that could benefit from translational pre-seed funding include:
Novel Therapeutic Modalities | Medical Devices and Digital Health | Novel Diagnostic and Biomarker Platforms | Clean Energy | Silicon Photonics | Machine Learning, AI and Neural Network Technology | Computer Vision | Robotics
The Fund Investment Advisory Committee
Managing Partner, BOLD Capital Partners: Over 30 years of investment experience. Deep interest in disruptive technologies. BA & MA Cambridge; PhD MIT.
Managing Director, Westlake Village BioPartners: Experienced life sciences venture investor and entrepreneur. BA Carleton College; PhD UC San Diego.
Managing Partner, Sonder Capital: Founder turned investor focused on transformative medical technologies.
Managing Partner, Embark Ventures: Venture investor focused on robotics applied to manufacturing and industrial sectors. MBA Harvard; MS MIT.
CEO, 1200 Pharma; former Caltech EIR: Experienced life sciences entrepreneur. BS & MS Stanford.
Co-founder and Managing Partner of Angeleno Group, a PE investor focused on energy and natural resource-related companies. BS Berkeley, MS and JD Stanford.
Sample of Caltech Companies Acquired/IPO
For information, please contact Case Cortese.
Overview for Companies
The Caltech Seed Fund's purpose is to supply pre-seed and seed capital to help promising new Caltech companies achieve milestones that will allow them to secure external funding within 12-24 months post-investment.
The main goals are to:
- Strengthen the entrepreneurial ecosystem around Caltech
- Increase the number of Caltech technologies successfully commercialized and Caltech's societal impact
- Reinforce Caltech's competitiveness in the recruitment of faculty and students
- Create learning opportunities for students as well as additional career options for students
- Increase philanthropy from successful entrepreneurs and potentially investors/alumni involved with the Fund
- Provide financial returns to Caltech in furtherance of its mission
The Caltech Seed Fund will be managed by the Fund's Executive Committee (FXC). The Fund Investment Advisory Committee (FIAC), comprising of experienced entrepreneurs and venture capitalists, will provide investment guidance in an advisory capacity. The Wilson Hill Fund is an independent fund that matches selected seed investments by the Caltech Fund, in addition to managing its own investment portfolio. Additionally, the Wilson Hill Fund can make follow-on investments to support growth of its portfolio companies.
FIAC members may invest in companies brought before the committee, but they must rely on their own due diligence efforts.
- Ability to attract follow-on investment within 12 to 24 months if proposed milestones are met
- Realistic milestone definition and budget
- Likelihood of meeting milestones in time-efficient manner
- Market potential
- Quality and coachability of the management team
- Exit potential, size and timing
- Opportunity of significant next round step up
- IP position and competitive advantage
- Other criteria specific to the individual investment
Companies may be invited for funding consideration by a member of the FXC or may request to pitch directly. A pre-review of the pitch deck is encouraged if the company has not previously worked with the Entrepreneurs in Residence (EIRs) to ensure that the investment criteria points are adequately addressed. The pitch presentation followed by Q&A is given to the FXC with OTTCP licensing team members and Wilson Hill Fund representatives present. After internal discussion, a decision is made whether to proceed with diligence. If the decision is positive, the company works through a provided diligence checklist and Q&A process to facilitate drafting of an investment memo for FIAC feedback. Once advice has been received from potential follow-on investors and the FIAC on the opportunity, a decision will be made by the FXC on funding level. If positive, a term sheet will be provided for the company's review.
Like other investment funds, the Caltech Seed Fund will not sign an NDA as part of the pitch or diligence process. However, FIAC members are bound by a separate agreement with Caltech for overall confidentiality, including around intellectual property.