Tel Aviv University has established a new early-stage venture capital fund, TAU Ventures. The aim of the fund, reportedly estimated at $20 million, is to make pre-seed funding available to student and alumni startups coming out of the university, as well as to boost overall entrepreneurship on campus.
Tech-savvy schools in the United States, including MIT, Stanford and the University of California at Berkeley, have all started VC funds but this is the first time such a business model has opened in Israel.
The lead investor and cofounder of the new fund is Los Angeles-based Behzad Kianmahd, CEO of Maxim Commercial Capital.
“As a firm supporter of higher education and the future of Israel, investing in TAU Ventures was a natural fit,” Kianmahd said, adding that he hoped the fund would “add exponential possibilities and open doors for young people in Israel.”
A second key investor in the new fund is Singapore-based Chartered High Tech, which has close ties with the Japanese business world through its Japan-Israel High Tech Fund.
Tel Aviv University says approximately 25 percent of all Israeli entrepreneurs are alumni of the school and that TAU ranks ninth globally (and first in Israel) for producing the most VC-backed entrepreneurs.
Nimrod Cohen, a former partner in Plus Ventures and chairman of the Hapoel Ramat Gan basketball team, will be the managing partner in TAU Ventures. Cohen has invested in hot Israeli startups including augmented reality platform Cimagine, acquired by Snap in 2016.
TAU Ventures will operate for seven years and focus on shorter-term investments rather than capital-heavy businesses such as clean-tech or pharma, Cohen said.
Entrepreneurs who receive funding from TAU Ventures will work out of the fund’s offices at the Miles S. Nadal Home for Technological Innovation and Entrepreneurship in Ramat Aviv.
TAU Ventures joins a thriving investment ecosystem already operating at the university, including the school’s technology transfer company Ramot, which has raised $40 million for university-based researchers; the $23 million Momentum Fund (which includes India’s Tata Group and Singapore’s Temaske as investors); the Delta Pre-Accelerator, which helps students build prototypes and receive business mentoring on the way to a seed-round; and I3 Equity Partners, which focuses on Internet of Things startups and includes as partners GE Ventures, Tata, Microsoft and Qualcomm Ventures.