As part of the Board of Trustees’ review of Research, Translation and Commercialization (RTC) at Duke, Duke Capital Partners’ (formerly the Duke Angel Network) move to the Office for Translation & Commercialization optimizes its contributions to Duke’s innovation ecosystem and enhances its members’ meaningful engagement with Duke innovators and entrepreneurs.
In FY22, Duke Capital Partners (formerly the Duke Angel Network) joined the Office for Translation & Commercialization (OTC). As part of our office, Duke Capital Partners’ contributions to Duke’s innovation ecosystem augment OTC’s capacity to bring life-changing inventions to market.
Duke Capital Partners is an investment network of Duke alumni, faculty, and parents and provides exciting opportunities for its members to invest in early-stage companies with a Duke connection and for Duke-affiliated entrepreneurs to pitch their companies for potential investment.
“Duke Capital Partners was formed to address the growing need for early-stage capital to propel Duke-connected start-ups, engage alumni and friends in the life of the university in novel and meaningful ways, and to provide in-the-trenches venture capital investing experience for students from across disciplines,” said Kurt Schmidt, Managing Director of Duke Capital Partners. “We cultivate relationships with alumni who not only make capital investments in Duke start-ups, but who also share their time and expertise with portfolio companies to ensure their success.”
Founded in 2015, Duke Capital Partners has invested in 43 companies with a combined enterprise value of over $4 billion. The past few years have been ones of rapid growth for the network, with more than 70% of its total investments made in the last three years alone. This growth is translating into success, with five company exits to date, four of which occurred in the last 18 months.
According to data from the Angel Capital Association, Duke Capital Partners is the #1 university angel network in North America based on invested capital. Duke Capital Partners is also the most active venture capital firm/angel network in the Southeast, per Pitchbook data based on number of investments.
However, financial investments are just a small part of Duke Capital Partners’ story. A key function of the network is as a platform for Duke alumni, faculty, staff, and students to continue engaging with the university – and with each other – in a new and exciting way.
Beyond financing, Duke Capital Partners provides longitudinal support and mentorship for entrepreneurs as they navigate early-stage growth.
“Duke Capital Partners has been everything we could’ve asked for in a lead investor; I’m incredibly lucky to be backed by such a supportive and helpful team,” said Kasper Kubica (B.S. ’17), co-founder and COO of sweat-stopping lotion company Carpe. “Duke Capital Partners has been a steadfast partner through every up and down, and the Duke Capital Partners member on our board has brought a wealth of experience, which has broadened Carpe’s options and success.”
Beyond supporting current Duke entrepreneurs and investors, Duke Capital Partners is also committed to growing the next generation of venture capital professionals and building out the network. Duke Capital Partners has trained more than 80 Associates: students and early-career professionals from across Duke, from the Fuqua School of Business to the Schools of Medicine and Nursing, and everything in between. These Associates leave with not only the skills and experience gained from participating in every part of the investment process, but also with an engaged and dedicated network they can always tap back into. In FY22, 23 Duke Capital Partners Associates, the largest cohort since Duke Capital Partners’ inception, evaluated 795 investment opportunities which culminated in 17 diligence reports.
“Adding Duke Capital Partners to the OTC group enables us to not only provide the Duke Capital Partners members with more opportunities to review potential start-up investments, but also to engage these members, most of whom have considerable industry and investment experience, to act as advisors to faculty entrepreneurs and to OTC as it considers its own investment into early-stage innovations,” said Robin Rasor, Associate VP for Translation & Commercialization.
Since joining forces in FY22, the synergies between Duke Capital Partners and OTC have become even more apparent. Duke Capital Partners has increased its insight into early-stage technologies coming out of Duke, and OTC has tapped into the mentorship and market expertise of the Duke Capital Partners Operating Team and broader member network. For example, several early-stage start-ups that OTC is helping spin up have met with Duke Capital Partners members to better develop their product positioning and understand market dynamics.
OTC is proud to be the new home of Duke Capital Partners. Together, our organizations can more efficiently grow our reach and support of Duke inventors, entrepreneurs, and investors, as well as provide a unique educational experience for Duke students. “Duke Capital Partners operates under the assumption that our value to Duke goes far beyond being a source of smart capital,” said Schmidt. “The Duke Capital Partners Operating Team, members, and Associates work in lock step with faculty, student, and alumni founders to commercialize innovative technologies that are poised to change the world. Being part of the OTC team enhances our ability to empower Duke innovators as they build transformative companies, and we are glad to forge the future of Duke innovation hand in hand with OTC.”
By co-locating Duke Capital Partners within OTC, the university has consolidated the innovation pipeline – from invention to IP management, to licensing and start-up creation – and added investment dollars, mentorship, and market expertise to OTC’s suite of services. This partnership is creating an even more robust innovation ecosystem and advances the university’s ongoing Research Translation and Commercialization initiative.