Search overlay

Search form





        Auburn establishes new fund for start-ups

        June 26, 2024 By Auburn NVA communications

        All News


        Auburn University has formed the AU Kickstart Fund, a designated fund within the Auburn University Foundation that will provide direct, non-dilutive grants to select New Venture Accelerator companies exhibiting best-in-class potential for success. The fund is designed to bridge the gap between new business formation and initial seed or Series A funding, and will be administered under the governance and oversight of the Harbert College of Business and the New Venture Accelerator.

        A growing need

        Since its inception, Auburn’s New Venture Accelerator has established itself as the go-to source of business idea formation, start-up business education and pitch competition training for Auburn University students and faculty.

        Several startup businesses mentored at the New Venture Accelerator have successfully progressed beyond Tiger Cage competitions to convince seed, early stage and Series A investors to commit more than $100 million in next-stage funding to New Venture Accelerator stand-out companies, including Yellow Card, XO Armor and Flashtract.

        Group of people in front of mural

        Auburn start-up Yellow Card is one of several highly successful companies that came out of the Tiger Cage business pitch competition and New Venture Accelerator.

        The growth of Auburn’s Tiger Cage Pitch Competition and the success of the companies the New Venture Accelerator has supported is proof of the investment opportunities being created by aspiring entrepreneurs at Auburn University.

        But we can do more.

        Auburn’s New Venture Accelerator conducted a detailed assessment of how the tangible, real world results delivered by the New Venture Accelerator’s pitch competition training and business formation advisory services might be expanded through direct, grant-based capital infusions. The findings were clear – the availability of non-dilutive grants for the most promising NVA prospects will help grow the list of successfully funded Auburn University-based start-ups.

        Enter AU Kickstart Fund

        The AU Kickstart is the next element in our planned program intended to fill the need to help finance Auburn-based start-up teams, including enlisting strategic partners, generating pro forma financial projections and assisting with the creation of a formal business plan as required for consideration by early-stage investors.

        “The next step in this endeavor is to enlist an initial cohort of founding donors willing to commit substantial funding to AU Kickstart,” says Dan O’Keefe, Entrepreneur-in-Residence at Auburn’s New Venture Accelerator. “That process is already generating initial donations, and the fund is now reaching out to a broader array of alumni, corporate partners, government entrepreneurship entities and economic development NGOs in Alabama, surrounding states and nationwide.”

        Lou Bifano, director of the New Venture Accelerator, points to the importance of the AU Kickstart Fund in expanding opportunities for the Auburn Family to directly support entrepreneurship at Auburn without saddling early-stage new ventures with overly dilutive equity investment terms and conditions.

        “AU Kickstart will be funded through philanthropic donations from Auburn alumni and other individuals, public and private sector grants and corporate partnerships,” says Bifano. “An independent investment committee will make AU Kickstart Fund grant award decisions, with a dedicated fund manager leading the day-to-day operations of the fund.”

        Additional coaching and mentoring support will be provided to the AU Kickstart grant recipients by New Venture Accelerator Entrepreneurs-in-Residence, with an emphasis on preparing the selected entrepreneurs to secure outside investors and tracking progress against their business plan.


        The Auburn entrepreneurial ecosystem

        start-up roadmap graphic

        Auburn University’s New Venture Accelerator is the focal point of the extensive Auburn entrepreneurial ecosystem that also includes the Harbert College of Business, the Lowder Center for Family Business and Entrepreneurship, the Auburn Research and Technology Foundation, the Intellectual Property Exchange, as well as a portfolio of classroom curricula and student-led groups focused on entrepreneurship and new business development.

        Interested donors to the AU Kickstart fund are encouraged to contact Daniel O’Keefe at for more details.