Wolverine Venture Fund scores win with Silverpop exit

The Wolverine Venture Fund, an investment vehicle run by students at the University of Michigan, is celebrating a win now that it has recorded its fourth profitable exit with the IBM's acquisition of Silverpop.

Silverpop is a software company offering marketing automation and real-time personalization technology services. The Wolverine Venture Fund invested $200,000 in 2000. The size of the return hasn’t been released yet besides the managing director of the fund saying the exit "makes us very happy."

"What's nice about this one is that it's a company that was founded during the Dot Com boom," says Erik Gordon, a professor of entrepreneurship at the University of Michigan’s Ross School of Business and managing director of the Wolverine Venture Fund. "Very few of these companies were standing three years later. This is one of the few Dot Com companies that was able to survive and pivot a few times."

The Wolverine Venture Fund got its start in 1997 with $2 million donated by supports of U-M’s business school. It has since grown to $6.5 million, recording four successful exits. The fund specializes in making early round investments in startups of around $100,000 to $200,000. The fund currently has about a dozen active portfolio companies.

The students who run the Wolverine Venture Fund number about 25 each year. About a dozen students sign up for a two-year stint of managing the fund each year. Most of those students are MBA students at the Ross School of Business but a few others are often graduate students in science and technology fields of the university.

"It's a huge commitment," Gordon says. "You come in and do it for two years, including through the summer. This is a real deep dive. They become real venture capitalists."

Some of the Wolverine Venture Fund’s recent alumni include Jake Cohen, a partner with Detroit Venture Partners, along with Michael Godwin and Jason Townsend, co-founders of Resonant Venture Partners.

"That's the fund's real accomplishment," Gordon says. "We are training our students to get up and make it happen."

Source: Erik Gordon, a professor of entrepreneurship at the University of Michigan's Ross School of Business
Writer: Jon Zemke

Read more about Metro Detroit's growing entrepreneurial ecosystem at SEMichiganStartup.com.
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