Jeanan Yasiri Moe, Director of Strategic Communications
[email protected] | 608.960.9892
April 23 event on UW-Madison campus will explore major venture initiative
Veteran entrepreneur Mike Partsch landed in Madison late last year to lead one of the region’s newest venture funds. His mission: help more UW technology become “venture ready,” and boost the number and quality of Badger-born startups.
A seasoned medical device venture capitalist and startup CEO, Partsch brings extensive operational experience in early-stage university spinouts. His career has included stops at Versant Ventures – a top health care venture fund – and Acuitive Medical Ventures (AMV), which he started.
Partsch, a Pennsylvania native, holds an MBA from Carnegie Mellon University. After graduating, a Kauffman Fellowship (Class 4) took him to a venture capital fund in Ann Arbor, Michigan, where he worked almost exclusively on university startups in the Great Lakes region.
After nearly two decades in California, Partsch has now returned to the Midwest to lead the new multimillion dollar WARF Ventures fund, which will invest in companies founded to commercialize UW-Madison or Morgridge Institute for Research technologies.
Partsch recently sat down to discuss the WARF fund he now manages, a vision of success, and how a onetime pre-med student “got hooked” on startups.
WARF: Why are you excited about this role?
MP: The University of Wisconsin-Madison is Top Six as far as research dollars. There is a lot of cool stuff going on here. This role of Chief Venture Officer is my chance to help build what I think is going to be a model for institutions across the country – maybe around the world – as to how you better leverage your underutilized assets in a region of the country that isn’t getting its fair share of attention.
W: How will WARF Ventures do that?
MP: Collectively, the capital from WARF Ventures, WARF Therapeutics and WARF Accelerator can help bridge the gap between grant-funded university research and later rounds of venture capital. We can help get a technology venture ready, to attract attention. How do you attract attention? You incubate in the University longer, get it further along, get more data and remove more risk. WARF Ventures will assist WARF technology licensees in reaching early milestones on that path to commercialization.
W: From a venture perspective, what are we doing right here in Wisconsin and where can we improve?
MP: We have great technology coming out of the University, but what we don’t have are management and development teams that can take early-stage technologies, turn them into viable products and sell them in the marketplace. Currently, much of that skill set is resident on the coasts where you have people who have been down that path multiple times.
We’re going to start getting it in Madison as more and more entrepreneurs stay here in this area. I have faith that will happen.
W: What will success look like?
MP: It is easy to start a company. That alone is not a metric for success. Did those companies get multiple rounds of smart investment capital? Did they eventually get a product to market? Did those companies go public or get acquired?
I’m hoping to see that we not only help create companies, but for every dollar that the venture fund invests, we see ten dollars of outside venture money coming to those. I want to see those companies get to the next level, selling products on the market.
W: You planned to become a doctor but got involved in a startup in college and never looked back.
MP: I thought, well, if you’re a physician, you can help one person at a time. If you get a Ph.D. you might develop a drug that could solve a disease, solve an indication and help an entire class of people. But if you get into venture capital, you’re directing substantial funds into various exciting and innovative research technologies and also helping others partner to do the same.
I believed I could have a tremendous impact on the world, and that sounded pretty cool.
W: What keeps you inspired?
MP: I want to get great technologies on the market. Someone asked me the other day, “Why do you do what you do?” I have on my desk a new picture of my twin daughters. I look at them every day I come into work. That’s why I do it. I want to make the world a better place for them.
The Wisconsin Alumni Research Foundation (WARF) helps steward the cycle of research, discovery, commercialization and investment for the University of Wisconsin-Madison. Founded in 1925 as an independent, nonprofit foundation, WARF manages more than 2,000 patents and an investment portfolio of $2.7 billion as it funds university research, obtains patents for campus discoveries and licenses inventions to industry. For more information, visit warf.org and view WARF’s Cycle of Innovation.