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WUT IF - the VC fund of first choice for academia

Wednesday, January 31, 2024, at even noon, the Small Hall in the Main Building of the Warsaw University of Technology is filled to capacity, and the atmosphere of interest with a hint of enthusiasm is in the air. At the back of the Auditorium, Staszic's quote, which, although not spoken, will soon be recalled from the stage: 

"Skills until they are still a void invention, perhaps a venerable mere deduction of reason or a vanity plaything, until they are applied to the use of nations." 

The first rows were filled with guests of honor: rectors of Polish universities, representatives of the VC community, investors and business angels - among them Prof. Maria Mrówczyńska, Undersecretary of State at the Ministry of Science and Higher Education, responsible at the Ministry for matters concerning innovation and development. The inauguration day of WUT IF, the Warsaw University of Technology Investment Factory and at the same time Poland's most recent venture capital fund, will be remembered for a long time. 

The guests gathered in the Small Hall were welcomed by Prof. Krzysztof Zaremba, the Chancellor of the Warsaw University of Technology. He emphasized that WUT IF is the first VC fund established next to a public university in Poland, which will benefit from good practices developed at leading universities around the world. In addition, the fact that such a fund has been established means, in his opinion, that the Warsaw University of Technology and its associated academic community will open up to business, thus closing the process of creating and developing deep-tech startups. 

Next, Prof. Adam Wozniak, WUT Vice Chancellor for Development, outlined the processes of technologies commercialization and their transfer to business and industry in a new setting - from intellectual property management, through incubation and acceleration within the Institute of Applied Research, up to WUT IF. At the same time, he pointed out that the WUT IF combines the best of a technical university such as Warsaw University of Technology: an established international position in the fields of basic sciences and engineering, support for academic entrepreneurship, competence in investment and capital and technology, and innovation focused on deep-tech. 

Prof. Maria Mrówczynska, who represented Minister Dariusz Wieczorek at the inauguration, expressed joy that the Polish academic community has gained such an ally and partner in the development and commercialization of breakthrough technologies as the WUT IF. Moreover, she noted, the rectors of other technical universities have also expressed interest in the fund. Wishing them success, she said she was looking forward to seeing the results of the fund's work. 

After brief speeches by our guests, we took over the baton and presented in detail to the gathered guests the assumptions we had set for ourselves when establishing our fund. First, Jakub Wojciechowski, discussed good practices of funds operating next to universities. He began his story on the other side of the Atlantic at the University of Chicago, but focused on European universities, which are closer to us not only geographically. 

He quoted erythropoietin, a drug that stimulates the multiplication and differentiation of red blood cells, as an example of a missed academic opportunity on the one hand, and an excuse to establish the first fund next to a university. The discovery of Chicago university scientist Gene Goldwasser entered the public domain and was used by Amgen to create the drug EPOGEN®, which brought the company more than $100 billion in revenue over the next few decades. As a result of the failure to properly transfer knowledge and technology to business, both the scientist himself and his alma mater had zero share of the profits from its sale. Since then, also thanks to funds operating at universities, the situation has improved dramatically. 

Prof. Robert Sitnik demonstrated on his own example R&D work he has conducted the design and implementation of the university sector potential.  Guaranteed access to more than 200 world-class technology experts, research teams and laboratory equipment are just a few of WUT IF's advantages over other venture capital funds that make our initiative the fund of first choice for students, doctoral students and researchers looking to commercialize the technologies they develop. 

Finally, Karol Matczak gave a detailed presentation of the VC fund's principles and process, emphasizing the importance of kindness in our approach to academic entrepreneurship development. With the aim of benefiting first and foremost the teams, but also the investors, one of the foundations of WUT IF will be sincere peer feedback. At the same time, the value of the fund for young innovators is determined by the available capital in the form of physical resources and knowhow, as well as the academic staff of Warsaw University of Technology. He concluded his presentation with ambitious plans for the future - from first exits to a presence on the Warsaw Stock Exchange. 

We were supported by a good word, delivered remotely, by Dr. Sarah Theinert of UVC Partners from Garching near Munich and Technische Universität München. This is one of the institutions in whose footsteps we want to follow and from whose experience we want to draw. Dr. Theinert presented the goals and history of UVC Partners, the fund's policies, and on one of the slides we saw collected logos of companies founded by German technical university students that have gained the status of startup success stories. With that, the first part of our fund's inauguration ended, and the assembled guests proceeded to the Great Hall, on whose wall are engraved the words of Jan Zamoyski, for a joint toast and backstage conversations: 

"Such will always be the Polish Republic, as their youth raise." 

The ceremony closed with a Q&A session, which also had participation of Jamie Macfarlane, founder and CEO of Creator Fund, and Michal Olszewski associated with the Movens Capital group. Both Creator Fund and Movens Capital have a track record of success in the startup world. The first focuses in the United Kingdom on supporting young inventors in academic centers such as Oxford, Cambridge, London and Glasgow, while the second one specializes in scaling and international expansion of technology companies. 

The Warsaw University of Technology Investment Factory has the next stage ahead: building a portfolio, commercializing research and transferring technology from academia to industry. WUT IF fills a gap in the startup community that has been underserved so far - early-stage support for startups from technical universities. We know from abroad examples of success stories of such initiatives. We know that the support they received from institutions like ours contributed to their success. We believe that we have a lot to offer entrepreneurial students, PhD students and academics. That's why we are getting down to work and invite you to contact us. 


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