Rowan Innovation Fund Expands to $25 million

The Rowan Innovation Venture Fund (RIVF), which launched with $5 million in 2014 to seed visionary start-up ideas, received an additional $20 million to back a pipeline of evolving businesses from within and outside the Rowan University community. Since 2015, the RIVF has seeded 14 South Jersey-based and regional startups, many launched by University students and faculty.

“We’ve invested approximately $4.3 million since the Fund’s formation,” said RIVF Managing Director Ernest Holtzheimer ’12, MBA ’13.

Though much of that investment has been in companies founded by Rowan students, faculty or alumni, the Fund’s broader mission supports a key goal of the University—economic development beyond campus.

“At $25 million, the RIVF is among the largest venture funds from a public university in the region,” said Rowan University President Ali A. Houshmand. “As Rowan grows, part of our mission must be to support innovators with the ideas and ability to launch businesses, create jobs and improve our community.”

Houshmand noted that the RIVF’s expansion coincides with a push to make Rowan more entrepreneurial, including, in the last year alone, a partnership with Virtua Health to create a dynamic and transformational academic health system that will drive innovation, research and clinical care. The institution is also launching the Rowan University School of Veterinary Medicine, a first for New Jersey, and created the School of Innovation & Entrepreneurship within the Rohrer College of Business. (Last fall The Princeton Review and Entrepreneur magazine named Rowan’s entrepreneurship program among the 50 best in the U.S.)

A range of support options: While the RIVF invests up to $500,000 in scalable companies, it is poised to significantly increase the number of companies it supports, including smaller start-ups that need lesser amounts of capital to get started.

To date, the Fund has provided more than $2.4 million to life sciences companies, more than $1.2 million to software/mobile app firms, $450,000 to telecommunications startups and $150,000 to entrepreneurs in the food and beverage sector.

Early recipients include:

• HALFDAY Tonics (originally called Topos Teas), a company founded by two Rohrer College of Business alumni that produces a line of healthful tea drinks, which today is sold in more than 1,400 U.S retailers, including Target and Publix stores;

• ExpressCells, A Philadelphia-based company that uses CRISPR DNA editing technology to create cell lines for improved drug development and biological research; and

• MRIMath, a health science company co-founded by Rowan faculty that, among other things, provides physicians critical information for life-saving procedures like radiation and surgical therapies for brain cancer.

Venture capital fellowship program: In addition to providing start-up financing, the RIVF is creating a fellowship program for students to learn how venture capital funding works. With plans to begin in the Spring 2023 semester, students of all majors may apply for acceptance into the fellowship program, an opportunity that will be especially valuable to those seeking careers in finance or the venture capital field as well as to students who may wish to explore entrepreneurial projects of their own.

The RIVF accepts and reviews applications on a rolling basis and encourages interested parties to apply online.