High Alpha Innovation launches new fund to boost Notre Dame-affiliated startups

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Indianapolis-based High Alpha Innovation is halfway to its fundraising target for a new $35 million fund that will target startups rooted in the University of Notre Dame and the surrounding South Bend-Elkhart area.

High Alpha Innovation announced this week that it has closed the first $17.5 million of investment into the 1842 Fund. The fund takes its name from the year that Notre Dame was founded.

The fund is an outgrowth of a partnership that High Alpha Innovation and Notre Dame’s IDEA Center formed last year. IDEA, which stands for “innovation, de-risking and enterprise acceleration,” launched in 2017 as a resource for commercialization and entrepreneurial activities at the university.

High Alpha Innovation, which was founded in 2020 as a spinoff of Indianapolis venture studio High Alpha, works with universities and existing companies to innovate, launch, and grow startups.

Matt Gardner, a partner at the 1842 Fund, said the collaboration between High Alpha Innovation and Notre Dame will allow the university to offer new services to the entrepreneurs it assists.

An example: One way to commercialize a faculty member’s research is to build a startup business around that research. And a key task in building a business is finding the right person to lead it.

“This is one thing that High Alpha is exceptional at, is identifying very strong operators to run those projects,” Gardner said.

High Alpha Innovation’s expertise in raising investment funding will also be helpful, Gardner said.

Gardner, who is based at Notre Dame, previously worked for the university. In late October, when High Alpha Innovation closed on the $17.5 million investment in the 1842 Fund, Gardner shifted over and now works for the venture studio.

Gardner said the 1842 Fund will use two different strategies to launch startups. The fund will invest in startups born out of the IDEA Center, which serves Notre Dame faculty, students and South Bend-area entrepreneurs.

The fund also will establish an on-campus venture studio, the 1842 Studio, to build, staff and launch software startups in collaboration with Notre Dame faculty, students and the IDEA Center. Those studio-built startups will focus on areas such as health and well-being, poverty and sustainability—issues that align with some of the focus areas in Notre Dame’s recently released 10-year strategic framework.

Gardner said 1842 Studio is already working on its first startup, which is aiming for a launch early next year. He declined to provide specifics on the company, because it’s still under development.

High Alpha Innovation also has worked with other universities, including the University of Louisville, the University of Wisconsin-Madison, and the University of North Carolina-Chapel Hill, to launch their own venture studios.

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