Bulldog Innovation Group’s Whitney Innovation Fund is constructing a diverse early-stage portfolio along several dimensions: by sector (healthcare, social media, technology) and by market/distribution type (B2B, B2C, B2B2C). And we take pride that nearly half our companies are run by women and/or minorities.

How are we doing it? First, the company needs to provide an in-depth application through our website. If it meets initial criteria, our Managing Director, Laura Kauer Rodriguez (SOM ’11), does preliminary research, often using Yale College and Yale School of Management interns for support, and conducting an initial interview with the entrepreneur. If the company then meets additional criteria, Laura will present it to the Investment Committee (IC) for review. If the company receives the IC green light, Laura engages a subject matter expert, typically from BIG’s ever-expanding Yale alumni network of networks to conduct final diligence. She also notifies our large General Partner membership that the company is under consideration, which can generate additional insights or useful contacts. Companies with final approval by our IC and Board are typically given an initial investment of $100,000, with the possibility for follow-on investments in later rounds.

It is through this process that we are able to consider such a breadth of opportunities and provide meaningful evaluation of the promising ones. And because our mission is broadly to help foster entrepreneurship for Yale, our staff will often spend time with founders whose companies we don’t invest in, giving them critical feedback and sometimes referring them to individuals in our network who can help them progress.

The last step: Laura assigns a liaison from our network to the new portfolio company. This experienced Yalie not only serves as our point of contact for quarterly updates but can offer mentorship, be a sounding board and make key connections to potential customers or investors. That’s how we are building a dynamic ecosystem of students, alumni, staff and faculty, focused on nurturing Yale entrepreneurship and innovation.