From Boulder to the Bay: Alumni investors connect with university startups at Silicon Valley summit

By Mallory Richardson, August 20, 2019

On August 17, eight University of Colorado startups founded on faculty research traveled to Silicon Valley for a day-long retreat with CU Boulder alumni investors and friends.

The investors are members of the Bay Area Buffs Investors Club, a grassroots alumni organization founded by Pingrong “PR” Yu (PhDChem’04), a Silicon Valley-based venture capitalist, startup founder and CU Boulder alumnus.

Terri Fiez, CU Boulder vice chancellor for Research & Innovation, knew that building stronger ties with the alumni network in Silicon Valley was essential for university startup success. So, she tapped Yu and the Bay Area Buffs to help accelerate progress.

“I’m a big believer in entrepreneurship,” said Yu. “After meeting a few times with Terri, I suggested we plan ongoing events for CU’s startups and our investors to connect.”

The startups—representing the College of Arts and Sciences, the College of Engineering and Applied Science and the College of Media, Communication and Information—presented their company value propositions to the group.

Throughout their startup journeys, teams tapped into university resources and Venture Partners at CU Boulder, which help faculty translate groundbreaking research into real-world impact. Teams took advantage of pitch coaching sessions, customer discovery workshops and competitions like Lab Venture Challenge and New Venture Challenge to further develop their companies and obtain funding

Investors were “blown away” by the quality of pitches, said Stephen Miller, mentor network director for Venture Partners. "I've personally seen these pitches evolve over the last year alone," he said.

Mehrdad Farhangnia (AeroEngr’91; MS’93), CEO of Track Medical, serial entrepreneur and CU Boulder alumnus said, “I was pleasantly surprised by the high caliber of investment opportunities presented, particularly in healthcare, imaging and atmospheric sensing. The quality of the technology and teams coming from CU Boulder is as high as any around the country.”

“Their reactions and feedback validated the work we’re doing to move technology out of the lab to benefit the world around us,” said Miller.

Yu emphasized that this immersive program is more than just a pitching opportunity. “It’s not only about the funding opportunities that may arise, but this is also about making valuable connections and having in-depth conversations,” Yu said. “CU Boulder is one big family. We’re here to help each other out.”

This upcoming winter, Yu and Fiez plan to continue the collaboration by bringing the Bay Area Buffs to Colorado for Destination Startup, a CU Boulder-hosted showcase of the top ventures from the state's leading research institutions.

CU Boulder Startups in Attendance:

  • Aspero Medical
  • Big Blue Technologies
  • Double Helix Optics
  • New Iridium
  • Orbital Micro Systems
  • Respirogen

University of Colorado Colorado Springs Startup in Attendance:

  • B Cell Solutions