NUtech Ventures, the nonprofit company that helps commercialize new technology and intellectual property developed inside the University of Nebraska-Lincoln, has added a full-time entrepreneur in residence and part-time fellow to its staff and plans to launch a new startup mentorship and accelerator program
Brian Ardinger, a co-founder of The Big Plate and previously the chief marketing officer at Nanonation, started last week as NUTech Ventures’ first entrepreneur in residence. Luke Smith, whose experience includes stints in engineering and operations at both large public companies and startups, joins the organization as a fellow.
Ardinger (above left) and Smith (above right) will work with UNL’s would-be entrepreneurs to develop business models, conduct market research and prepare for investor pitches.
“Under this new program, NUtech Ventures marks a new focus on technology-based companies originating at the university,” NUtech Ventures executive director David Conrad said in a release. “NUtech has concentrated on licensing technologies to existing businesses, along with a handful of startup companies each year. The new program will bring increased attention and expertise to university startups, better preparing them for investment, market penetration and overall success.”
Specifics of the new program have not been laid out. But Ardinger said in a phone interview today that he’s spending his first days on the job getting the lay of the land, visiting with entrepreneurs and university faculty as he works to determine what form the program will take.
“Part of it is to understand some of the ecosystem, some of the opportunities that are available and put together the program — you know, what’s the program going to look like with regards to mentorship or an accelerator or things along those lines,” Ardinger said of his current focus.
Ardinger said he sees entrepreneurship picking up steam across the region and that NUtech Ventures is looking to make the most of that momentum.
“The resources and the people and the things are coming together at the right time here, and NUtech feels it can help facilitate that,” he said. “So they want to help put programs and people and things in place to help make that happen for the University and Nebraska.”
NUtech Ventures won’t be prescriptive of the type of companies it prefers to work with, Ardinger said. But he considers high-growth tech companies prime candidates for what the new program will offer.
“We’ll … be open to any type of opportunity that’s coming out of the University,” he said. “But obviously, you know, software, computer science, engineering are some of the key areas where I think there’s opportunities for startup businesses to evolve and come out.”
“Look for exciting things to come as we put together more of the plans around the program,” Ardinger added. “But we’re very excited about the opportunity to have an impact and work with not only the University but people on the Silicon Prairie … to figure out how we can maximize the impact across the region.”
Credits: Photos of Ardinger and Smith from nutechventures.org.