Bringing a Bit of Silicon Valley to the Rest of the U.S.

Sarah Lacy

The demise of the billion dollar fund not withstanding, there is still a flood of venture capital out there searching for the next big thing, bidding it up, and flooding the market with “me too companies” when they find it. So here at deal flow we get excited when a firm tries to do something different.

Robert Kornblum admits his new venture doesn’t sound very different if you live in Silicon Valley, but for, say Virginia or Iowa it’s practically revolutionary.

The former partner at Austin Ventures and exec at software company Manugistics is back in the venture world…sort of. He’s heading up the new U.S. Ventures Team for Angle Technology, a U.K. consulting firm that was formed by the former European partners of KPMG. The firm had a $20 million public offering in the U.K. in 2004 and since the consulting part of the company is profitable all of the proceeds are going to venture investing.

Obviously, from the size of the IPO—easily one venture capital round in Silicon Valley—Kornblum isn’t intending to compete with the Sand Hill Road ilk. In fact, instead of competing for deals with anyone, they are going to make their own. He and some soon to be hired partners will be trolling the halls at Midwest and East Coast Universities and companies looking for commercializable technologies to spin out. The firm will acquire them outright, become temporary managers, and build a business plan around them. And, in effect, gussy them up for the real VCs.

He wouldn’t think of trying to do this in California. Here in Silicon Valley, tech projects at universities like Berkeley and Stanford aren’t exactly ignored by VCs (exhibit A: Google) and the schools are pretty savvy about technology transfer.

It will be interesting to see what gems Angle can discover among the cornfields. But it may be a wide open opportunity for a reason: tech transfer, particularly at public universities can be a bear and a lot of university programs are more academic than commercial in their promise. Still, if successful they’ll be a step of that much vaunted Silicon Valley infrastructure the rest of the U.S. has lacked. And since they are buying the technology outright, they’ll have a massive share of any home runs.

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