The Wisconsin Alumni Research Foundation (WARF), supporting one of the world’s leading research universities, seeks a strategic and collaborative executive-level leader to be its inaugural Chief Venture Officer (CVO) tasked with growing the direct-investment portfolio by leading deal origination across a variety of sectors and asset classes. This is a unique opportunity for an innovative and experienced venture investment professional to lead and enhance WARF’s entrepreneurship and startup efforts aimed at supporting the commercialization of discoveries at the University of Wisconsin – Madison (UW-Madison).
WARF’s mission is to support scientific research within the UW–Madison community by providing financial support, actively managing assets, and moving innovations to the marketplace for a financial return and global impact. Founded more than 90 years ago to support and serve UW-Madison, WARF is a separate, not-for-profit 501(c)(3) corporation with assets under management exceeding $2.7 billion and a robust intellectual property portfolio that generates millions of dollars in annual revenue to support WARF’s mission.
WARF is governed by an independent board of successful UW–Madison alumni with expertise in finance, IT, medicine, entrepreneurship, government services and industry. The CVO will have direct and regular contact with this board of trustees and will be expected to interact with these trustees as important stakeholders in the development and success of this new strategy.
Reporting to the Managing Director, the CVO will be a member of WARF’s Executive Team and work in close partnership across the organization to help shape and execute WARF’s entrepreneurship and startup strategy, while ensuring a high level of innovation, openness and accountability. As WARF embarks on its next five-year organizational strategic plan, which prioritizes the strengthening of an entrepreneurial environment at the UW-Madison and the support of associated startup companies, the CVO will play a critical role in fostering WARF’s position as a leader in technology transfer.
The CVO will oversee activities associated with the formation and funding of new startups to transfer inventions arising out of UW-Madison research into commercial enterprises, as well as the support of an entrepreneurial ecosystem within the university community. The CVO will work with WARF colleagues, UW-Madison and other stakeholders to guide entrepreneurs through entity formation, structure and investment processes, and provide guidance to companies post investment. This position will also work closely with WARF colleagues to source investment opportunities that have potential to advance the strategic priorities of WARF and university technologies, and lead discussions and execution of direct investments into UW-Madison spinout companies.
The CVO will establish a small team dedicated to WARF’s entrepreneurship and startup activities, which will work collaboratively with WARF’s legal, IP, commercialization, investment, and financial teams to execute against a strategy, including the negotiation, execution and management of a portfolio of venture investments. The CVO will be responsible for managing work allocation, supporting an effective team dynamic, and engaging and motivating employees through feedback, recognition, and mentoring opportunities.
The following provides a summary of the key responsibilities:
- Shape and operationalize an entrepreneurship and startup strategy that supports WARF’s organizational strategic priorities, including the development and support of entrepreneurship programs and direct-investment models.
- Identify potential UW-Madison related investment opportunities through active outreach on campus and in collaboration with WARF colleagues and external stakeholders, and take executive lead in due-diligence and market analysis, deal structuring, negotiations, and preparing and presenting investment proposals.
- Establish a 2-3 member team dedicated to WARF’s entrepreneurship and startup activities, collaborate with and use existing resources at WARF, UW-Madison and the community, and execute against all aspects of the strategy under a team approach across WARF departments and staff.
- Oversee management of the direct investment portfolio through frequent interaction with startup company leadership and strategic partners, ensuring progress against programmatic and financial benchmarks. Serve on startup boards as appropriate.
- Generate financial returns and revenue for WARF through investments in UW-Madison startups.
- Track and report metrics on startup investments and entrepreneurship activities; assist in establishing yearly objectives.
- Act as a strategic executive leader to help ensure WARF is executing against its organizational vision, mission, values and strategic plan.
- Engage as a spokesperson locally and nationally describing the efforts and success of WARF’s initiatives in support of a dynamic entrepreneurship environment.
- Develop and execute programs and events to support startups, including identifying topics and presenters for entrepreneurial programs on campus, representing WARF at events and conferences, enhancing collaborations with UW-Madison programs as well as with off-campus incubators and accelerators.
- Collaborate with the UW-Madison community to assist entrepreneurs through startup development methodology and investment processes. Facilitate startup company interactions with WARF staff and trustees, consultants, potential industry partners, alumni, university and State resources, and angel, venture and entrepreneur groups.
- Network with other funding sources and leverage third-party capital to support UW-Madison startups.
- Ensure high-quality interactions and provide clear and consistent communications with internal and external partners.
- Develop and implement policies and procedures for WARF’s involvement in startups.
- Interact and coordinate activities with the Board of Trustees on the setting and monitoring of WARF’s entrepreneurship and startup activities.
Ideal candidates will be mission driven, with a strong desire to serve a public research university. The new CVO will be a seasoned leader and have a proven record of success in navigating highly complex environments, implementing new innovative projects, communicating to a wide variety of stakeholders, and interacting with the Board of Trustees in a collaborative manner. The successful candidate will have significant venture investing and leadership experience, and possess the following:
- Bachelor’s degree in business, finance, science or engineering; MBA or PhD is preferred.
- Strong life science, computer science and/or engineering background, and familiarity with regulatory issues associated with product development and approvals.
- At least 10 years of experience in a senior-level direct seed and/or venture-investing role, with ability to identify, develop, mature, and harvest portfolio investments.
- Entrepreneurship experience, including managing an organizational P&L; founding a startup is preferred.
- Proficiency in market analysis, valuation techniques, revenue forecasting, financial modeling, business plan development, and complex negotiations involving seed and/or venture investment transactions.
- Access to a network of executive level managers in relevant industry sectors for strategic alignment, capital, market access, joint development is highly desirable.
- Strong ability to balance independent initiative while working collaboratively in a team approach with internal colleagues and external stakeholders, toward mutual benefits.
- Professional proactive relationship with entrepreneurs, startup CEOs, co-investors and corporate partners.
- Basic knowledge of intellectual property, technology transfer and academic conflict-of-interest issues; familiarity with startup contracts, spreadsheets, legal issues and accounting practices.
- Demonstrate a collegial and cooperative nature to be able to work effectively with WARF departments and staff, UW-Madison senior management and faculty, and outside companies and entrepreneurs.
- Sensitive to faculty and early venture needs and university-wide policies.
- Strong verbal/written communication, presentation and interpersonal skills.
If interested, please apply here.