UK Announces New Program to Support Local Venture Capital Formation

LEXINGTON, Ky. (May 24, 2021) — The University of Kentucky (UK) Office of Technology Commercialization (OTC) is pleased to announce the offering of Launch Blue Ventures (LBV) to support the growth of venture capital for startups in Kentucky. A part of Launch Blue, a startup accelerator program developed by UK OTC in partnership with Bluegrass Angels (BGA) and Kentucky Science and Technology Corporation (KSTC) and others, LBV is a venture capital management services program supporting the development, provision and management of venture capital to benefit Kentucky startups.

“UK is a catalyst in the Kentucky technology-based economic development startup ecosystem. As the largest incubator of new technologies and startups in the state and through partnerships across the state, UK is the founder and manager of numerous innovation and accelerator programs that are accessible by innovators, entrepreneurs and startups statewide,” said Ian McClure, associate vice president for research (AVPR), innovation and economic impact.

McClure said that Kentucky’s capital assets under management (AUM) per capita are significantly lower than nearly all other states in its region, according to the data from PitchBook and the National Venture Capital Association. This fact limits the growth potential for the technologies and startups.

“Leveraging the strong community partnerships that created Launch Blue, we are excited to continue our collaborative work to help fill Kentucky’s gap and provide this necessary support for our growing startup ecosystem,” McClure said.

Through fund management support services and investor education, LBV will support the launch of local angel and venture capital funds that will both lead deals and syndicate with other venture capital providers in the region for the benefit of Kentucky startups. LBV aims to increase the level of startup capital available to Kentucky startups at the pre-seed, seed and post-seed stages. In addition, LBV aims to grow a deep pool of talent, resources and capital networks with rich and diverse startup experience in Kentucky.

“Launch Blue Ventures is a much-needed component in Kentucky's accelerating entrepreneurial ecosystem,” said Brian Luftman, member of the BGA leadership team. “The Bluegrass Angels lean heavily on Launch Blue's extensive programming and mentoring, which, to our delight, consistently develops a strong pipeline of investment-worthy start-ups. Launch Blue Ventures creates a structure for additional venture and angel capital in Kentucky, and the Bluegrass Angels are happy to join with them in supporting the region's numerous high-tech startups.”

Working closely with BGA and KSTC will provide LBV the opportunity to amplify the current investment resources and participants to determine the best way to manage new capital.

“We are excited to see Launch Blue Ventures offering a breadth of investor support services in Central Kentucky,” said Kelby Price, with KSTC venture development. “As Kentucky builds, develops and invests in a more robust venture environment we will need more resources and services available to our state’s emerging managers and we look forward to Launch Blue’s continued success.”

Eric Hartman will be serving as the interim director for LBV.

“By undertaking the arduous work of managing venture fund logistics, Launch Blue Ventures will make available more opportunities to deploy investment capital throughout the Commonwealth to Kentucky’s most promising startups,” Hartman said. “Kentuckians and those with Kentucky roots are passionate about supporting their state. LVB will enable new mechanisms for them to do so with high impact.”

LVB is part of Launch Blue, which nurtures the most promising Kentucky founders with scalable technology-based startups through an intensive accelerator and incubator program. The organizing partners for Launch Blue are UK OTC, Base 110 (now Base Here), BGA, Bullard, Commerce Lexington, Kentucky Small Business Development Center, KSTC, Awesome Inc, and Marrow. Funding is being providing by KY Innovation, Lexington-Fayette Urban County Government and UK OTC.

As the state’s flagship, land-grant institution, the University of Kentucky exists to advance the Commonwealth. We do that by preparing the next generation of leaders — placing students at the heart of everything we do — and transforming the lives of Kentuckians through education, research and creative work, service and health care. We pride ourselves on being a catalyst for breakthroughs and a force for healing, a place where ingenuity unfolds. It's all made possible by our people — visionaries, disruptors and pioneers — who make up 200 academic programs, a $476.5 million research and development enterprise and a world-class medical center, all on one campus.   

In 2022, UK was ranked by Forbes as one of the “Best Employers for New Grads” and named a “Diversity Champion” by INSIGHT into Diversity, a testament to our commitment to advance Kentucky and create a community of belonging for everyone. While our mission looks different in many ways than it did in 1865, the vision of service to our Commonwealth and the world remains the same. We are the University for Kentucky.