October 18-20 | Tucson, AZ

The Research Institution GAP Fund and Accelerator Program Summit

Purdue Research Foundation, Alumni Network Team On Start-ups

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October 18-20, 2023 / Tucson, AZ
The annual summit for research institution gap fund and accelerator programs, including proof of concept programs, startup accelerators, and university venture funds

The Story


A new all-volunteer, nonprofit group composed of Silicon Valley-based Purdue University alumni could provide Purdue innovators and entrepreneurs with support to commercialize the university’s innovations.

Silicon Valley Boiler Innovation Group (SV BIG) links established California venture capitalists, angel investors, entrepreneurs and industry officials who graduated from Purdue with Purdue entrepreneurs attempting to launch their own startups.

Alumni Tom Schroeder and Bruce Schechter, Silicon Valley-based businessmen with successful careers in entrepreneurship, business development and venture/angel investing, have been instrumental in getting SV BIG off the ground.

“SV BIG was created through the initiative of several Purdue alumni who have been successful in the startup world. It is an independent, alumni-driven group,” Schroeder said. “This grassroots organization can bring critical market advice, fundraising insight, a Silicon Valley cultural perspective and technical know-how to potential entrepreneurs at the university.

“The objective of SV BIG is to help stimulate a startup culture and community at Purdue and support the creation of successful ventures based on Purdue technology. We want to help Purdue entrepreneurs to really think ‘big.'”

Schroeder and Schechter assembled Purdue alumni with experience in the venture industry. Today, SV BIG has 24 members and grows steadily. Schechter, Glenn Johnson and Rich Redelfs seek more members to provide networking support and mentorship in Silicon Valley and beyond.

“Purdue has a strong, proud alumni base, and many are successful entrepreneurs who have expressed an interest in engaging in the entrepreneurial activities happening through Purdue University and Purdue Research Foundation,” said Dan Hasler, president and chief entrepreneurial officer for Purdue Research Foundation.

“Engaging some of our 400,000 alumni using a combination of technology and old-fashioned networking creates new opportunities for Purdue to enhance its technological and economic impact and move some of the 450-plus Purdue innovations to the public where they can help people. That is a top goal of our collective efforts.”

SV BIG met with faculty, researchers and students, offering feedback and coaching during an event in Discovery Park. It will put together a mentoring team for ventures with the highest potential for success.

Jessica Huber, a Purdue speech, language and hearing sciences professor, presented her business plan about SpeechVive, a company that assists patients with Parkinson’s disease in speaking louder and more clearly. The device rests in a patient’s ear and provides noise similar to background chatter at a party, cueing the user to talk louder.

“The biggest benefit of presenting before SV BIG was having SpeechVive’s business plan vetted by people in business. That’s difficult to do on a university campus. These Purdue alums are real VCs and established business leaders who are devoting their time and expertise,” Huber said.

SV BIG is independent, but also works with the university’s Entrepreneurial Task Force, created by Purdue chemical engineering professor Joe Pekny, who has started high-tech businesses since joining the university in 1990. Working with John Boyle, director of the Purdue West Coast Partnership Center, initial Entrepreneurial Task Force membership was drawn from industrial engineering alumni involved in entrepreneurship.

“SV BIG is exactly the type of program we had hoped would evolve to support the task force,” Pekny said. “But the credit for the early success of the Silicon Valley group lies with the independent efforts of successful Purdue alumni who are willing and able to give back with their time as advisers, experts and mentors.”

To contact SV BIG or for more information, visit http://www.svbig.org/

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