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Drexel invests $450,000 in 3 new startups across manufacturing, sustainability and cosmetics

The second cohort of Innovation Fund recipients went through a months-long due diligence process before scoring the grant.

Drexel University. (Courtesy photo)

Drexel University will fund three more startups, a continuation of its goal to invest in the innovative ideas coming out of its community.

This is the second time Drexel’s Innovation Fund provided $150,000 grants to university-affiliated startups. This year’s group includes green energy firm 1DNano, nanomaterial manufacturer MXene Inc and makeup brand Aer Cosmetics, Drexel announced on Friday.

“We aspire to be a friends and family investor, as opposed to a professional investor,” Shintaro Kaido, vice provost for innovation and executive director of Drexel Applied Innovation, told Technical.ly “The program’s objective is to get those early stage companies institutional input and capital faster than if they didn’t have the funding from our program.”

The fund received over 30 applications for its second cohort, Kaido said. An investment advisory committee made up of Drexel alumni who work in innovation or venture capital questioned the founders in a months-long due diligence process before deciding how to invest the funds.

The Innovation Fund selected the winning companies based on potential societal impact and the passion that the founders showed for their businesses. 1DNano works toward reducing the cost of green hydrogen, MXene Inc aims to commercialize a proprietary material developed by Drexel in 2011 and Aer Cosmetics develops sustainable makeup.

Drexel launched the Innovation Fund in January 2023 as a way to invest in startups and spinouts in the university’s ecosystem. Last summer, Drexel chose agricultural lighting startup GrowFlux and lightweight construction material company SusMax for its first cohort.

Undergrad students contribute to the selection process

The impacts of Drexel’s Innovation Fund reach far beyond just the startups that win funding.

Undergraduate students can take a course that lets them work on the due diligence process with the investment advisory committee. Students seek out information about the founders’ stories, plans for the company and what they would do with the $150,000 investment. At the end of the semester, students present their findings to the committee to help it make its final decision.

Through the course, students get an inside look at how early-stage startup companies operate, Kaido said. They aren’t just business majors, either. As a part of Drexel’s efforts to encourage students across fields to think about innovation, the course accepts students from a variety of departments.

“Drexel’s focus is experiential education. So this really exposes the students to the cutting edge of early stage startup companies,” Kaido said. “[We’re] inspiring the students who are taking the class to think about ‘well during my time at Drexel, should I think about doing something like this.’”

Sarah Huffman is a 2022-2024 corps member for Report for America, an initiative of The Groundtruth Project that pairs young journalists with local newsrooms. This position is supported by the Lenfest Institute for Journalism.
Companies: Drexel University

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