New Venture Mentoring Service Connects UTSA, UT Health SA Entrepreneurs to Commercialization Expertise

By Iris Gonzalez
Four people are in lab coats. Photo by ThisisEngineering RAEng on Unsplash.

The University of Texas at San Antonio (UTSA) and UT Health San Antonio (UT Health SA) have joined forces to launch the Venture Mentoring Service San Antonio (VMS-SA), a program that matches experienced mentors with aspiring entrepreneurs.

The San Antonio chapter of the Venture Mentoring Service is a sister program of the Massachusetts Institute of Technology Venture Mentoring Service (MITVMS), which launched in 2000.

The VMS-SA network is available for startups spinning out from either UTSA or UT Health SA. UTSA’s Office of Commercialization and Innovation and UT Health SA’s Office of Technology Commercialization will manage the new joint program.

VMS-SA is open to all disciplines, with a focus on the biosciences. While in its initial launch phase, the program will focus on companies developing university-licensed technologies for the market.

Over time, the program will grow its capacity to include student-founded startups. The goal is to support students and faculty interested in entrepreneurship while supporting the educational objectives of both institutions, according to Christine Burke, director of commercialization and technology transfer at UTSA.

The VMS team-based methodology uses milestones to track the progress of each company, drawing upon a growing list of advisors experienced in developing technologies for the marketplace.

“We look for broad experience from our mentors,” Burke said. “It’s a way for senior business leaders who have the background, the time and the knowledge to help the next generation of entrepreneurs,” 

Planning for the VMS-SA network started before the COVID-19 pandemic. The entrepreneurial support services are free and confidential, UT Health SA’s Office of Technology Commercialization director John Fritz said. 

“These programs are designed to help entrepreneurs get these technologies from bench to bedside,” said Sean Thompson, who co-directs UT Health’s Tech Novum accelerator with Fritz. “One of the ways we do that is to license these technologies to a startup spinning out of the UT system.”

To date, three life science-focused companies from both universities have connected with the VMS network’s 12 mentors. Each month, UTSA and UT Health SA will host a one-hour lunch (for now, virtual) meeting to facilitate networking with the mentors and introduce new companies to the program. 

Admissions for company founders interested in applying to the program, as well as the addition of new mentors, are on a rolling basis, Fritz said. There is no limit on the length of time a company can participate in the program.

Burke and Fritz work closely together managing the new network. They encourage founders to pursue more entrepreneurship resources such as UTSA’s I-Corp program or UT Health SA’s Tech Novum accelerator

The new UTSA and UT Health SA joint program joins other entrepreneurial UT system-wide programs such as the ones at MD Anderson, the Austin Technology Incubator at UT Austin, and North Texas, a combined effort featuring UT Dallas, UT Southwestern, and UT Arlington. 

“This new program by itself is not a single solution to successful commercialization,” Fritz said. “It’s an addition to the continuum of services the UT system offers our innovators to provide even better mentoring for university-launched companies.”

The featured image is of four people in lab coats. Photo by ThisisEngineering RAEng on Unsplash.

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