InnoVets Nordic Aerospace Waffles Manages Grand Sky Airspace
UND Entrepreneurship Grad Leads ECG Medical Training
Dakota Venture Group Celebrates 10 Years
NEWS Grand Forks has Largest UAS Entrepreneur Cluster in the Nation The UND Center for Innovation’s technology incubator is home to 26 Unmanned Aircraft Systems (UAS) related companies, mostly UAS entrepreneurs or international UAS companies working to establish themselves in the emerging UAS marketplace. As national airspace opens up for drone operations, this new industry cluster will diversify and grow North Dakota’s economy. The North Dakota UAS entrepreneur cluster is larger than in any other accelerator, incubator or entrepreneur center in the nation. There certainly will be more UAS entrepreneurs as the state becomes a growing national hotspot for UAS entrepreneur activity, especially in conjunction with the nation’s first drone business park, Grand Sky, the FAA Test Site, and the critical talent provided by the UAS majors at UND. The state’s first SBA Growth Accelerator designation was recently secured by the center to launch Autonomous Alley, an initiative to help UAS entrepreneurs access capital, venture development assistance, network with UAS industry experts, and secure customers in the
by Bruce Gjovig
emerging UAS industry. Dan Daffinrud, an entrepreneur coach on the center staff, leads the initiative. Daffinrud also serves as CFO for SkySkopes, a UAS startup located in the tech incubator. A year ago, Tero Heinonen, founder and CEO of Sharper Shape, decided to make Grand Forks his North American headquarters after looking at several locations. Heinonen is a serial entrepreneur and experienced start-up executive with a successful track record of co-founding five technology companies in Finland.
Tero Heinonen Sharper Shape is a global leader in drone-based automated inspection and maintenance planning services for the energy industry. Their Sharper A6 is the world’s most advanced drone for beyond-visual-line-of-sight (BVLOS) asset inspections. Using their Sharperscope 5.0 multisensor system and proprietary automated analysis software, they provide asset inspection services which drastically reduce continued on page 9
“Nobody can go back and start a new beginning, but anyone can start today and make a new ending“ - Maria Robinson, writer
Eugene Dahl Named 43rd Rough Rider Award Recipient In late October, Governor Jack Dalrymple announced Eugene Dahl as the last recipient of the Theodore Roosevelt Rough Rider Award to be named during Dalrymple’s tenure in office. A longtime supporter of the UND Center for Innovation, Dahl was the first chair of the center’s advisory board beginning in 1984 and a mentor to many emerging entrepreneurs.
The board room in the Ina Mae Rude Entrepreneur Center was named for Eugene Dahl and his brother-inlaw, Roger Melroe, to honor their entrepreneurial accomplishments. Dalrymple said, “Eugene Dahl was an extraordinary leader, entrepreneur and philanthropist whose name is synonymous with innovation in
manufacturing and agriculture not only in North Dakota, but nationally and globally. He played a pivotal role in some of North Dakota’s largest manufacturing businesses, including Bobcat and Steiger, and was instrumental in bringing jobs and economic opportunities to the state.” Eugene Dahl passed away in 2008, therefore his four children accepted the Rough Rider Award on his behalf. The award, established in 1961, recognizes present or former North Dakotans who have been influenced by this state in achieving national recognition in their fields of endeavor, thereby reflecting credit and honor upon North Dakota and its citizens. Recipients of the award are named by the state’s current governor and it is considered the highest honor a North Dakotan can receive. Hand painted portraits of the award recipients are displayed in the state capitol building in Bismarck.
Auto-Pilot Medical Technologies Joins Incubator Peter Chamberlain, a recent graduate of Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) with a master’s degree in mechanical engineering, is striving to solve a significant problem in the physical therapy market. “For many patients, walking health is the most important outcome of physical therapy and the number one indicator for quality of life. Currently, a lack of access to good data makes it difficult for caregivers to manage this area of personal health,” Chamberlain states.
more thoroughly understand walking habits and make efforts to improve quality of life. Therapists and doctors can use this data to make more informed care decisions while saving time and money with new patient data reporting systems. Chamberlain explains, “WalkSmart is different from other fitness tracking systems because it was designed for this specific problem. Patients won’t have to remember to wear a smartwatch or worry about charging their devices, leading to more reliable and useful data.”
WalkSmart is Chamberlain’s hardware & software solution that allows for improved monitoring and management of walking habits. By attaching the module to an existing walker, physical therapists, patients, and their families can
Auto-Pilot Medical Technologies is a tenant in the Center for Innovation’s incubator and Chamberlain is participating in the InnovateND program through the North Dakota Department of Commerce to further develop and commercialize
the WalkSmart medical device. WalkSmart is currently being tested with patients within the Altru Health System.
Center for Innovation’s Autonomous Alley Accelerates Growth in UAS Ecosystem The UND Center for Innovation Foundation was recently recognized as a Growth Accelerator by the U.S. Small Business Administration (SBA) through its annual Growth Accelerator competition. Nationwide, SBA named 68 accelerators in 32 states and the District of Columbia to draw attention and funding to parts of the country where there are gaps in the entrepreneurial ecosystem. The burgeoning Unmanned Aircraft Systems (UAS) ecosystem in the Skalicky Tech Incubator is a perfect fit for this program as the Center for Innovation prepares innovators from rural North Dakota to create lasting economic impact in the region.
As North Dakota’s first SBA growth accelerator, Autonomous Alley provides client companies with individualized coaching and mentoring, access to student talent from the University of North Dakota (UND) and venture financing assistance. The Center for Innovation has established itself as a UAS hub, assisting 26 UAS-related companies entering the marketplace. North Dakota offers many advantages to this new industry including the nation’s first operational UAS test site, uncongested airspace, UND’s leading aviation school and large energy and agriculture industries poised for innovation through the use of drones.
Autonomous Alley and its services are coordinated by Center for Innovation staff members Dan Daffinrud and Emily O’Brien. It is expected that UAS entrepreneurship will increase as the industry takes off. With the establishment of an accelerator program, the center brings more than three decades experience in venture development to the entrepreneurs who are navigating this new frontier. For more information on Autonomous Alley: firstname.lastname@example.org or email@example.com
InnoVets Aerospace Manages Grand Sky Airspace For more than a year, operations have been underway at Grand Sky, the nation’s first commercial UAS business and aviation park. During that time, more than 100 sorties have flown safely out of the park. Integrated flight operations between large and small, manned and unmanned aircraft, have taken place. Commercial UAS, and their chase aircraft, launch and recover daily from Grand Sky. None of these events would occur without the efforts of InnoVets Aerospace, a small, veteran-owned company based in the UND Center for Innovation’s incubator. The aerospace advisory and services company provides Unmanned Aircraft Systems (UAS) strategic planning and operational support for Grand Sky. They hold the Airfield Management contract for all flight operations at Grand Sky and all flight scheduling, compliance and management is overseen by their team of experts. Tenant flights are coordinated and scheduled through the InnoVets Aerospace management office and their staff coordinates with GFAFB tower to control security at the taxiway gate for commercial aircraft transiting from the Grand Sky ramp to the runway and back. InnoVets Aerospace staff possess an extensive background in civilian and military aerospace operations to include flight training, safety, standardization and evaluation, scheduling, maintenance, and services.
Co-founders Chris Yakabe and Mike Whitted have 51 years of aviation experience combined, including over 15,000 hours of pilot-in-command and instructional hours on 23 types of military/civilian light and heavy aircraft. InnoVets Aerospace is a 100% service-disabled veteranowned small business. The company’s two founders, its airfield manager and alternate manager are Air Force veterans. Their experience creates a safe and effective bridge between Grand Sky’s Air Force hosts and commercial operators. For more information on InnoVets: firstname.lastname@example.org or email@example.com
Phil Gisi Named as Trustee to Center for Innovation Foundation Board In May 2016, Phil Gisi joined the Center for Innovation Foundation’s board. Gisi’s involvement with the organization began in 2012, when the Dakota Venture Group invested in one of his companies, Edgewood Real Estate Investment Trust (REIT). Gisi is well known for his successes across the state of North Dakota and the Midwest. He is a native of New Rockford, North Dakota, and a 1982 graduate of the UND with a bachelor’s degree in accounting. Gisi currently operates as the majority owner and CEO of the Edgewood Group of Companies and Edgewood Management Group, a senior care living facilities operator. He is also CEO of Edgewood REIT and chair and CEO of SBG Energy Services, LLC, a ND-based oil field services company. Gisi also serves on the board of directors of the UND Alumni Association & Foundation and is a member of the UND College of Business & Public Administration’s alumni advisory council. Bruce Gjovig remarked, “Phil will have a positive impact in the goals our foundation is reaching. He has been a close friend to the center for many years, so I know he will hit the ground running and fit right in with the group. I am honored that he chose to be involved.”
701 Angel Fund Reaches Milestones in 2016 The newest angel investment fund launched with the support of the UND Center for Innovation Foundation, 701 Angel Fund, marked the end of 2016 by closing its fifth investment. The North Dakota-based angel fund is managed by Greg Syrup MyMeds MyMeds, a digital health company that uses technology to address medication non-adherence, or people not taking their medicines as prescribed. This is the most expensive, yet fixable, problem in healthcare today with over $300 Billion wasted each year due to medication non-adherence. MyMeds works with health plans and employers to help drive down healthcare costs through a unique approach that engages patients in their care through assistance and supports them with tools to help them succeed. While medical adherence is an individual challenge, a team approach is the key to the solution. Pete Clagett, MyMeds’ chief executive officer, brings executive level experience from three other pharmacy benefit companies: Prime Therapeutics, Anthem, and US Script. The company’s founder and chief medical officer is practicing nephrologist Rajiv Shah, who founded the company in 2013 after recognizing a growing need for patient involvement in maintaining health. Those who attended TEDx Fargo in 2015 may recall Dr. Shah’s TED Talk, “Disrupters in Health Care.”
StemoniX 701 Angel Fund, whose investors are primarily located in the Red River Valley, has already seen outstanding performance from an earlier investment in StemoniX. The stem cell company was just recently named the recipient of the 2016 MN Cup, Minnesota’s largest statewide business competition. StemoniX took home a little over $80,000 in addition to winning the title in a competition against more than 600 different companies. StemoniX products are revolutionizing stem cell-based research and drug screening. Grand Forks-based Harvest Fund I, a Fund of Dakota Venture Group, was also an early investor in the successful start-up. For more information on MyMeds: www.my-meds.com For more information on StemoniX: www.stemonix.com For more information on 701 Angel Fund contact: Greg Syrup firstname.lastname@example.org www.701angelfund.com
Statoil Choses Advacam for Non-Invasive Testing Statoil – a world energy leader in oil and gas production headquartered in Norway – selected Center for Innovation incubator tenant Advacam to develop non-invasive inspection of pressure vessels without stopping operations or removing any materials. This will provide an advantage over current inspection technologies that stop operations and are thus costly and time consuming. Statoil launched an open innovation campaign on the subject and received 32 proposals from all over the world. They selected three winners, one of which was Advacam. Statoil operates in 36 countries and is the world’s eleventh-largest oil and gas company by production and twenty-sixth largest by profit. Statoil also has significant oil and gas operations in western North Dakota’s Bakken field. “Technology development is a continuous process and the winners of the contest illustrate the importance of constantly looking ahead, also to other industries, to orient themselves anew,” says Magnar Ottøy, Leader of Statoil’s technology management organization in a Statoil press release. “We are now looking into the opportunity for further collaboration and technology development with the winners”, says Jan Richard Sagli, Statoil’s manager of innovation.
Advacam s.r.o., Czech Republic was established by Jan Jakubek and Jan Sohar in 2013 and shortly after merged with its Finnish counterpart lead by Juha Kalliopuska and Sami Vahanen. The company made the Center for Innovation’s tech incubator its North American headquarters in 2015. With offices in Prague, Czech Republic; Helsinki, Finland; and Grand Forks, North Dakota, Advacam proposed a solution based on its proprietary and revolutionary photon counting X-ray back scattering technologies, that inspects by measuring the reflection of photons from inside of a medium, resulting in high-resolution digital images of the interior without the insertion of any equipment into the object being inspected. William Paulin, entrepreneurin-residence at the UND Center for Innovation, is Advacam’s entrepreneur coach and company advisor. “The opportunities for this world-class technology to do noninvasive inspections of composite materials used in the aerospace, wind-power, automobile and other industries is immense,” said Paulin. “This is truly a disruptive technology and application in the marketplace that will dramatically change the nondestructive testing industry.”
New Center for Innovation Foundation Website Launched in 2017 Two students from the UND School of Entrepreneurship, Atle “Alex” Johanson and Jonathan Puhl, have created a new website for the UND Center for Innovation Foundation. Johanson, a native of Norway, led the project, utilizing fresh designs to bring the previous information into a new format. The end result is be a website focusing on the unique programs of the UND Center for Innovation Foundation. The UND Center for Innovation Foundation is a 501 (c) (3) nonprofit organization that serves to link successful entrepreneurs, the UND Center for Innovation and its two tech incubators in the UND Tech Park and the UND School of Entrepreneurship to encourage and foster entrepreneur initiatives and new ventures in the region. Johanson said, “The website was a passion project for us. We really wanted to show that we could impact the UND Center for Innovation Foundation by utilizing the resources that we already had available.” To view the foundation’s website: www.innovators.net
For more information on Advacam: email@example.com
Xaver Neumeyer Appointed to UND School of Entrepreneurship the new bachelor’s degree program in Innovation and Entrepreneurship.
Xaver Neumeyer has joined the UND School of Entrepreneurship as an assistant professor. He will also hold the Burwell Chair of Entrepreneurship. Neumeyer began by teaching new product development in the fall of 2016 and he will oversee internships, placing entrepreneurship students into the field for professional practice through hands on experiential learning. He will also assist with the development of
Neumeyer earned a PhD in mechanical engineering in 2014 from Northwestern University, a master’s in mechanical and aerospace engineering from the Illinois Institute of Technology in Chicago and an undergraduate degree from Technical University in Berlin, Germany. In 2015, he completed the post-doctoral bridge program (PDB) with specialization in international business and entrepreneurship. While working on PDB program, Neumeyer served as a postdoctoral associate at the University of Florida Center for Entrepreneurship and Innovation where he conducted research, developed and taught
innovation and entrepreneurship courses, and supported co-curricular initiatives and events. His research focuses upon entrepreneurial ecosystems, examining the social structure of entrepreneurship and its communities. Neumeyer enjoys business plan competitions which give interesting insights into new industries and products. He says speaking to students about new market opportunities gives him perspective on what the students are learning and how they evaluate opportunities. While at UND, he will continue his research and compare findings from North Dakota with data gathered during his time in Florida and California, to identify how events are connected and what types of entrepreneurs are present. Neumeyer hopes to develop performance metrics that show how to change, shape, and improve the local entrepreneurial ecosystem.
Veterans Entrepreneurship Program The Center for Innovation Foundation and the UND School of Entrepreneurship hosted North Dakota’s first Veterans Entrepreneurship Program (VEP) boot camp event in October, 2016. The eight-day event helped veterans develop their ideas into viable businesses. VEP is a three-phase program, beginning with concept development and self-study, using online materials to help the participants develop a base understanding of what they want to accomplish during their time at the boot camp. The second phase is the VEP boot camp, an intense, hands-on learning experience to further grow the idea or business. A total of 24 veterans attended the boot camp at UND. The third phase of the program involves individual mentoring and follow up with the participants during the months following the boot camp. The Veterans Entrepreneurship Program was first established at 6
Oklahoma State University. Today, the program is also offered at the University of Florida, University of Tennessee at Chattanooga, and at UND. University of North Dakota faculty from the School of Entrepreneurship joined local and national business leaders, all of whom volunteered to share their expertise as lecturers during the boot camp. The program is offered to qualified veterans at no charge through a year-long fundraising effort by each university’s program’s coordinator. The VEP program at the University of North Dakota was coordinated by Tyler Okerlund. In addition to being a member of the Center for Innovation staff, Okerlund is a veteran of the US Navy and North Dakota Army National Guard. “It was great to see so many veterans in attendance and even more come out to support the event.” Okerlund stated after the event. “I think everyone really enjoyed it and learned
Veterans Entrepreneurship Program serves veterans who meet the following three requirements: • Have separated from active duty service (or are in the process of separating) with an honorable discharge • Are identified as disabled by the Veteran’s Administration or DOD based on a serviceconnected disability (or) are service distinguished based on exemplary military conduct • Demonstrate an intense motivation to start or grow a business a lot from each other. I’m just glad they let me be a part of it all.” For more information on VEP: firstname.lastname@example.org
UND Entrepreneurship Grad Leads ECG Medical Training Tommy Leikas’ entrepreneur career started in 2006 when he was a UND student majoring in entrepreneurship. Leikas gave up his last two years of playing basketball at UND to focus his attention on developing his first e-commerce venture in the Center for Innovation’s incubator. He secured a $20,000 investment from the student-run Dakota Venture Group, took out a loan from the Bank of North Dakota through its Beginning Entrepreneur Loan Program and spent his first two years after graduation growing his venture. He later sold the wine accessory ecommerce venture for a profit. “The Center for Innovation’s coaching and UND’s entrepreneur program helped me build an entrepreneur network of like-minded innovators and entrepreneur mentors,” he said. “I think the biggest thing is that they encourage you to think differently about opportunity and risk and to have a bias for action, innovation and securing customers.” Now, ten years later, Leikas is a serial entrepreneur located in downtown Fargo. He has developed, operated and sold nine niche internet shopping sites. His strongest competitive advantage is knowing how to drive traffic to his websites using search engine optimization (SEO), pay-per-click advertising, social media, and blogging. SEO brings the greatest return on investment, Leikas said. When done well, SEO can help a website rank highly with the major search engines. His most recent venture is undertaking the problem of training medical professionals. ECG Medical Training is a video-based learning
platform that educates healthcare providers around the globe about proper electrocardiogram (ECG) interpretation. When Leikas was visiting his uncle in Los Angeles in 2015, the two of them began talking about how they could combine their respective expertise to solve one of the more pressing, heart-related medical issues worldwide. His uncle is Dr. Tim Henry (UND ’78, ’80) who is a cardiologist and director of cardiology at the Cedars-Sinai Heart Institute in Beverly Hills. The two experts teamed up to help each other solve a major problem that needed both a medical expert and a seasoned internet entrepreneur. They continue as a team as Dr. Henry serves as the chief medical advisor to this North Dakota startup. ECG Medical Training was developed to enable better clinical decisions through quality, in-depth online educational training. This can mitigate health and financial problems that arise due to inadequate ECG interpretation by pre-hospital providers such as paramedics. The training was inspired by the well-known short videos prepared by the Khan Academy. While traditional brickand-mortar seminars can easily cost over $1,000 and take two to three days, each of the 40 training videos is about 10 minutes long with a deeper dive into subject matter material.
complex, rare content accessible worldwide, on demand.” ECG Medical Training currently has customers in more than a dozen countries worldwide. For more information on ECG Medical Training: www.ECGMedicalTraining.com
Leikas states that a major benefit to online training is accessibility, “If you’re a paramedic half-way around the world, a seminar isn’t even an option. Our solution offers WINTER 2017
UND students attend Slush Conference in Helsinki Eight students from the University of North Dakota (UND) School of Entrepreneurship attended Slush, a worldwide innovation conference in Helsinki, Finland, on November 30 and December 1. Slush is a studentdriven event created to connect entrepreneur founders, talent and investors from around the globe to foster new business. It is Europe’s leading tech startup event connecting top-tier entrepreneurs,
year’s conference boasted 17,500 attendees, 2,336 startups, 1,146 investors and 610 journalists. Entrepreneurship-minded students from UND attended both days of the conference where they had the opportunity to visit startup booths and listen to experts in many disciplines – from keynote speakers to dialogues and fireside chats with founders and investors.
The students also visited the Aalto Design Factory at Aalto University. The facility offers an experiential learning and co-creation environment for education, research and application of product design, while fostering significant interactions between students, faculty, researchers and professional practitioners. The factory contains several prototyping facilities, including a machine shop, 3D printing room, knitting shop, print shop and electronics shop, among lounge, study, social and other creative spaces. This type of experiential learning has resulted in a network of 10 design factories on five different continents. Bill Paulin, entrepreneur-in-residence with the UND Center for Innovation Foundation, accompanied the eight UND students to Finland where he has been an entrepreneur coach for 23 years and worked to develop the country’s entrepreneur ecosystem.
talent, investors and media. The annual conference was established in 2011 by entrepreneur students from Aalto University in Helsinki when they grew frustrated about the nonexistent entrepreneurship and investor community in the city, and ultimately, much of Europe. Beginning as a 300-person gathering, Slush has grown exponentially each year. This
“Throughout the week, we were able to learn about new innovations, different entrepreneurial business perspectives and how different countries develop up-and-coming entrepreneurs,” said Katie Mcphail, one of the UND students attending the conference. The students also had the opportunity to watch the Slush 100 pitching competition, where 100 startups competed to win the top equity investment of 650,000 euros.
Paulin observed, “It was very important to expose our entrepreneurship students to a world-class tech entrepreneur event that is driven to help the next generation of tech entrepreneurs move forward. It allowed our students to see what is possible and how they can impact North Dakota--even if the conference was held during winter in one of Europe’s most northern capitals.” The trip was made possible by a contribution from the Edson & Margaret Larson Foundation.
Grand Forks has Largest UAS Entrepreneur Cluster in the Nation (continued pg. 1) conduct several demonstrations of commercial inspection services based on long-distance drone flights. Sharper Shape submitted an application to the FAA requesting approval to perform (BVLOS) flights. Sharper Shape and SkySkopes are working with Xcel Energy, MontanaDakota Utilities, Minnkota Power Cooperative, Houston Engineering, Northern Plains Railroad, UND
of Robot Aviation have been at the forefront of commercial drone technology in Norway with nearly 20 years of experience in developing and operating advanced UAS for defense, government and the private sector.
and the Edison Electric Institute to conduct test flights. This past August, Sharper Shape raised $5 million from European and Australian investors with extensive experience in the energy sector to help expand their operations in the United States and overseas.
site, and open airspace as attributes that make North Dakota an attractive place to set up their North American headquarters.
Another international UAS firm that joined the tech incubator last summer is Robot Aviation. Founded in 2008, Robot Aviation manufactures fixed-wing unmanned aircraft and unmanned helicopters primarily for civilian markets. The company’s autopilot computer program, which can be adapted to numerous aircraft systems, is expected to spur collaboration with other UAS and sensor companies. The founders
Bjorn Forsdal, President of Robot Aviation USA, cited the expertise of other UAS-focused companies, abundance of UAS pilots, the UAS test
Robot Aviation is partnering with UAS flight service firm, SkySkopes, to collect thermal and infrared data in a series of test flights around the country. SkySkopes was the first North Dakota startup approved by the FAA to fly unmanned aircraft for business purposes. The startup has grown to over 16 certified pilots from the UAS program at UND and flies its fleet of 24 aircraft for industrial inspection, security, precision agriculture, training certification, and other uses. They flew over 300 successful missions in 2016, more than any other company in the state.
Another UAS incubator tenant has been active in the UAS cluster in North Dakota since its beginnings. Tommy Kenville, founder of Unmanned Applications Institute International (UAII), launched the longest operating UAS startup in the state in 2010. UAII is the first institute for research, testing, and consulting in the UAS industry. The North Dakota Airspace Integration Team was
Kenville’s idea which he presented to Senator John Hoeven (R-ND) in 2011. Kenville developed the list of industry experts to participate on the team and developed the “one voice” concept which led to North Dakota having the nation’s first designated FAA UAS test site. He also organized the first state UAS marketing effort at the Association for Unmanned Vehicle Systems International (AUVSI) conference in 2007. He has helped raise over $3 million in financing from angel investors and state programs for the UAS manufacturer, Altavian, to manufacture in Wahpeton. Kenville remains very optimistic for significant growth in the UAS industry in North Dakota led by UAS entrepreneurs.
Dakota Venture Group Celebrates 10 Years On October 6, 2016, Dakota Venture Group (DVG) celebrated its 10 year anniversary. DVG is distinct as the only fully student-run venture capital fund in the nation where student members make all the investment decisions including deal sourcing, screening, due diligence, negotiating investment terms, syndication, portfolio management, and exits for a return on investment. Since its founding in 2006, more than 130 UND students have participated in DVG.
Harvest Fund I is the nation’s first student-run private equity venture fund for accredited investors. The efforts to launch the fund began in 2010. Harvest Fund I closed on August 31, 2015 with $1.4 million in committed capital from 26 investors. Dakota Venture Group students lead the fund and make the investment decisions. Over half of the money in Harvest Fund I is currently invested. When making investments, DVG
“Over the years, the Dakota Venture Group has shown what UND students are capable of learning and accomplishing,” said Emily O’Brien, the President Emeritus of DVG. “It is a truly unique group, and it has provided the opportunity for experiential learning to students during the past ten years.” The fund was established with a $300,000 donation from Bart Holaday, a retired venture capitalist and president and founder of the Dakota Foundation. “The gift to launch the Dakota Venture Group is the best investment I have ever made,” reflects Holaday. “The student’s professionalism and dedication to learn venture capital and entrepreneurship continues to be impressive.” DVG currently manages two funds, the non-profit Innovation Fund and the for-profit Harvest Fund I. The Innovation Fund was set up as an evergreen fund within the Center for Innovation Foundation, meaning all returns from investments are fed back into the fund, allowing it to continuously grow and facilitate more investment opportunities. DVG has exited 3 companies from its portfolio with a favorable return on investment (ROI). The Innovation Fund is now reserved for investing in student ventures.
Harvest Fund I is the nation’s first student-run private equity venture fund for accredited investors. The efforts to launch the fund began in 2010. Harvest Fund I closed on August 31, 2015 with $1.4 million in committed capital from 26 investors. Dakota Venture Group students lead the fund and make the investment decisions. Over half of the money in Harvest Fund I is currently invested. When making investments, DVG focuses on three things: high return on investment (ROI), venture development in the upper Midwest, and potential for positive experiences for its student members - a triple bottom line return. Many student members have also held venture internships and board positions, increasing the educational experience of DVG’s members.
“There is no better way to learn the complexities of both entrepreneurship and private equity than to be immersed in venture capital investing,” said Bruce Gjovig, CEO of the UND Center for innovation Foundation. “Our students are fully engaged and they are the leading student venture capital group in the nation, which speaks to their great hard work, terrific effort, and ability to compete nationally.” For more information on Dakota Venture Group: Andrew Allen, President Dakota Venture Group email@example.com dakotaventuregroup.com
Robot Aviation opens North American office Robot Aviation is another international Unmanned Aircraft Systems (UAS) company to begin operations at the Center for Innovation’s tech incubator in 2016. Founded in 2008, Robot Aviation of Notodden, Norway, manufactures fixed-wing unmanned aircraft and unmanned helicopters primarily for the civilian markets providing complete, integrated commercial drone systems, operating software, cloud-based planning, processing and reporting. Bjorn Forsdal, president of Robot Aviation USA, said “The expertise of other UAS-focused companies, abundance of UAS pilots, Grand Sky, the UAS test site, and open airspace are all attributes that make the state an attractive place to set up a North American headquarters.”
The company’s founders, Per Kristian Haga and Ole Vidar Homleid, have been leaders in commercial drone technology for almost 20 years in Norway. Haga views the state as prime place for the company to gain traction in the U.S. market. Since locating in the incubator, Robot Aviation made connections with SkySkopes – another incubator tenant - and the companies announced their plans in October to partner for global operations while using Robot Aviation’s FX20 delta-wing aircraft. They will work together to gather infrared and thermal data in a series of test missions around the Western Hemisphere.
President and CEO of SkySkopes, Matt Dunlevy, is looking forward to the newly established relationship; “Robot Aviation is the most impressive UAS manufacturer in Norway, and we are lucky to have their U.S. headquarters here in North Dakota. The opportunities that access to their aircraft will bring to our state economy are considerable and I look forward to seeing their fleet expand.”
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