UM's first startup investment goes to memory firm

A University of Michigan startup marketing next-generation computer memory that could write 1,000 times faster than Flash is the recipient of U-M's first investment in one of its own startup companies.

This financial investment into Crossbar, Inc. kicks off a unique new initiative designed to help propel technologies into the marketplace and deliver strong returns on the university's endowment.

The Michigan Investment in New Technology Startups (MINTS) program, announced by President Mary Sue Coleman in October 2011, could inject up to $25 million during the next decade into select venture-funded U-M startups—new companies built around inventions born in faculty members' labs.

"MINTS is a revolutionary step forward for the entrepreneurial culture of the University," said Steve Forrest, U-M vice president for research. "Our investment in our own startups sends a powerful signal to our faculty, the industrial community, and investors everywhere that we believe in the quality of our start ups and of our faculty-student teams who take a chance to bring something all the way from a concept to a commercial reality that benefits society."

Crossbar, an advanced memory development company based in Santa Clara, Calif., is developing a new nonvolatile memory technology that will offer unprecedented density and power improvements in tomorrow's electronics.

"This certainly means a lot to us," said Wei Lu, associate professor in the Department of Electrical Engineering and Computer Science and co-founder of Crossbar. "Investment from the university is a clear indication of their continued commitment to our technology and its potential impact of changing the future of the silicon industry. It also demonstrates the university's commitment to advancing new disruptive technology."

For a faculty startup to be eligible for a MINTS investment, a qualifying venture capital firm must lead a new round of financing. Crossbar met that criteria with a Series B round initiated by Silicon Valley venture capital firm Kleiner Perkins Caufield & Byers as well as Artiman Ventures and Northern Light Venture Capital.

Crossbar was licensed in 2010. It is one of the nearly 100 startups U-M Tech Transfer has helped to launch during the past decade.

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