Funding / Startups / Universities

Drexel just launched the Innovation Fund for university-affiliated startups

The fund will support young companies with close ties to the institution, and offers entrepreneurship students the chance to vet startups like early-stage VCs.

The view of Center City from Drexel Park in Powelton Village. (Photo by J. Fusco for Visit Philadelphia)

Drexel University intends to support its own with the announcement of the new Innovation Fund, which will support early-stage startups affiliated with the University City institution.

Shintaro Kaido, vice provost for innovation and executive director of Drexel Applied Innovation, said the fund is a way for the university to invest in innovators coming out of the school’s ecosystem, such as current students, recent graduates, postgraduate students and those using Drexel research.

“The university is looking to play a role as the friends and family [round], almost,” he told

Every year, the fund will select four startups to receive $150,000 each. The fund is currently accepting applications and plans to do so twice a year. The first investees will be picked in late spring or early summer.

Shintaro Kaido in front of a curtain.

Shintaro Kaido. (Courtesy photo)

Drexel is investing in the program, but seeks further supporters with a goal to raise $5 million, according to a press release.

Kaido said the fund had been in the works for most of 2022 before its announcement this month. He hopes this fund will draw in students as a “vote of confidence” from the university, as well as professors who want to be supported in entrepreneurial endeavors and research.

“This is really to get everyone on Drexel’s campus to think about innovation and entrepreneurship as a way to make impact in the world that we live in,” he said, “and also to bring together students, faculty, staff, friends of the university.”

When considering applicants, Kaido said they’ll be looking at commitment, preparedness and what the impact of this startup will be for society — “How are you going to improve the world that we live in? That plays an important part in the selection process.”

The selection process also involves a course within Drexel’s Charles D. Close Close School of Entrepreneurship. Students in the course will help complete due diligence about the applying startups. The course, which starts in March, allows students to work alongside a given company’s founders to the collect information necessary to determine its promise and potential pitfalls.

“Essentially, during the class, they’re going to perform sort of a due diligence activity that a junior venture capital analyst might go through,” Kaido said. “At the end of the class, they’re going to give a presentation to the Investment Advisory Committee.”

This committee will take the students’ findings into consideration before determining who will receive funds. Kaido said this course is an opportunity for students to work behind the scenes in early-stage investing.

“It’s really an experiential, immersive course, to work in real time with the founders, understand what they’re trying to do,” he said. “And then based on the findings, you’re giving presentation to people who are professionally investing or industry professionals.”

Sarah Huffman is a 2022-2023 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
People: Shintaro Kaido

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