University of Michigan Wolverine Venture Fund Continues Track Record of Success with Silverpop Exit

Shannon Beeman
April 11, 2014

The Wolverine Venture Fund, managed by students at the Samuel Zell & Robert H. Lurie Institute for Entrepreneurial Studies at the University of Michigan Ross School of Business, today announced that one of its early portfolio companies, Silverpop, is under agreement to be acquired by IBM. Silverpop, a privately held software company based in Atlanta, is a leading marketing automation and real-time personalization technology.

As one of the Wolverine Venture Fund’s first investments made in August of 2000, the fund invested $200,000 participating in an early financing round with a syndicate of other investors and is one of the few dot com era investments to bear fruit. Student teams noted the company’s unique technology platform, experienced management team and the market opportunity for personalized marketing automation solutions as key drivers influencing their decision to invest.

This marks the Wolverine Venture Fund’s fourth successful exit since its formation. Students also directed investments in HandyLab. Upon its acquisition by BD, the investment earned a six-fold, cash-on-cash return delivering $2 million to the fund. Prior to that, medical device company IntraLase became the first portfolio company to go public returning more than $1 million in proceeds. The fund also scored a win when portfolio company was acquired in 1999.

“The Wolverine Venture Fund was developed to provide students with a real-world educational experience, and over the years students have participated in the full spectrum of the investment process, including the excitement and reward that comes with a successful exit,” said Faculty Managing Director, Prof. Erik Gordon. “The fund and the students who led the due diligence and investment process in Silverpop had the foresight to invest in an innovative technology pioneer and in a market opportunity that would grow to become the huge marketing automation industry that it is today.”

The $6.5 million Wolverine Venture Fund was the country’s first student-led venture fund and serves as a shining example of the Institute’s action-based approach to entrepreneurial education. The Fund’s student members seek, screen and negotiate investments and develop significant experience in these areas – and in working with VCs and entrepreneurs. Since its inception, the Wolverine Venture Fund has invested in more than three dozen companies in a wide range of industries including information technology, life sciences and alternative energy.

The acquisition is subject to customary closing conditions and regulatory clearance and is expected to close in the second quarter of 2014.