Another Day, Another Entrepreneur Starts A Venture Fund: The University Funds

It’s like its own (non-life threatening) epidemic, entrepreneurs creating new, early-stage venture capital firms as the overall industry contracts.

In addition to the handful of new, Bay Area teams establishing new firms that I’ve mentioned in recent posts, including Freestyle Capital, Quest Venture Partners, and Step5 Ventures, I’ve just learned that a Pacific Northwest entrepreneur is also breaking into the biz if he can raise a fund: Jim Torina, the co-founder and longtime CEO at Talyst, a startup that sells its software to hospitals and other centralized pharmacies to improve accuracy and patient safety.

Last spring, Torina left Talyst — which Torina had begun with his former brother-in-law and that has raised more than $40 million since its 2002 launch, including from Ignition Partners, OVP Venture Partners, and AIG Investments. Now, he’s trying to raise a seed-stage fund called the University Funds, in Bellevue.

It’s not clear how much Torina is aiming to collect for the firm, which is being structured as both a venture fund and an incubator, one that intends to build portfolio companies around the IP coming out of universities, including Washington State (Torina’s alma mater). A February SEC filing states that University Funds plans to raise just $5 million, while a statement out today from Washington State, about its collaboration with University Funds, says University Funds is raising $50 million. I’ve left a message with Torina, asking for clarification.

In the meantime, Torina says in WSU’s release that WSU is just one of eight Western U.S. research institutions that has already agreed to work with University Funds. The others aren’t named, nor are they mentioned at the firm’s Website.

Other folks listed as part of management at University Funds include Patrick Murphy, an entrepreneur and marketing consultant who is listed as COO, and Len Jessup, a professor at WSU who is apparently also managing “university relations” for the new firm.


  • The model is a great idea, and I’m very glad to hear that WSU understood and appreciated it.

    I tried to launch a similar fund with an eye toward providing similar services to the tech transfer offices at Stanford and Berkeley last year, but got no almost no traction.

  • It’s a good model, and one that is likely to be a growing trend as the institutional venture funds that are able to raise capital continue to consolidate. I’ve been operating Amplifier Ventures here in the DC region for four years now. We manage $8 million and operate an online social community for entrepreneurs called Amplifier Network. We have a current portfolio of four emerging software companies and are incubating four more through our Amplifier Business Accelerator Program. If anyone out there is thinking about the viability of the seed fund model and wants to get some real world data on its likelihood of success, I’d be happy to hear from you.

    Jonathan Aberman, Managing Director, Amplifier Ventures

  • […] is attempting to bankroll and incubate compelling technologies emerging from research institutions, reports’s Connie Loizos. The seed-stage fund is led by WSU grad and former Talyst […]

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