UTRF, 13 other SEC schools launch talent-focused Southeast XOR

By Tom Ballard, Chief Alliance Officer, PYA

The University of Tennessee (UT) Research Foundation has joined with the other 13 Southeastern Conference institutions to launch a new platform named the Southeast Executives-on-Roster.

Dubbed Southeast XOR for short, the match-making initiative is designed to broaden access to experienced entrepreneurial talent and facilitate matching of that talent to university-affiliated start-ups in need of executive management.

In explaining the initiative in yesterday’s announcement, UTRF President Stacey Patterson noted that every participating university has a research scope that is broader than its immediately accessible entrepreneur talent network, creating a need to better match university start-up companies not just with talent, but with talent having experience and relationships in the applicable industry.

“It’s well-known that early stage investors seek start-ups with experienced management teams,” she said. “By creating a regionally-affiliated network of entrepreneurial talent and a platform to match that talent to our start-up companies, we will see more start-ups with leadership teams capable of attracting the capital investment required to bring new products to market.”

Discussions about Southeast XOR started a year ago at the annual meeting of the SEC Technology Transfer Directors. Since then, the group has selected its software platform development partner, created the core principles for the platform, designed the specifications for the platform, drafted a “Guidebook” to govern the platform’s use and operations, and started recruiting and qualifying entrepreneurs and start-ups to populate the system for its pilot launch.

Richard Magid, UTRF’s Memphis-based Vice President, has been the institution’s lead on the project. We asked him exactly how the program operates, starting with how start-ups and entrepreneurs are selected.

“Each school nominates its own start-ups,” Magid said. “The basic criteria are that the start-up needs to be actively looking to add management talent and be willing to provide a pitch deck to be shared on the platform for entrepreneurs to review. Likewise, each school nominates its own entrepreneurs/executives. Here, the criteria are a little more defined. An individual should have experience founding a start-up, being part of an early stage management team, and/or have extensive leadership experience in a relevant field at more established companies.”

With yesterday’s launch, 50 entrepreneurs have been given access to the platform to begin searching through the profiles of more than 35 initial university start-ups. UTRF submitted five of the start-ups – two from Knoxville (490 BioTech and Peroxygen Systems) and three from Memphis (EMBrace Design, Neurodyne, and Oculo Therapy) – and prequalified three experienced entrepreneurs.

Additional entrepreneurs and start-ups will be added through an application and qualification process.

Magid emphasized an important part of the Southeast XOR concept.

“It could potentially lead to new start-ups, but the primary focus is on matchmaking between start-ups and regional talent,” he told us. “We know that having a stronger management team leads directly to easier capital raises, which will eventually bring more products/services to market.”

The University of Kentucky’s Office of Technology Commercialization is serving as the initial administrative arm for Southeast XOR, but Magid said the responsibility will rotate annually.

More information about the initiative is available here.

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