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Innovation Through Entrepreneurship

William C. Norris Institute

Stimulating Innovation and Supporting Visionary Local Companies

The William C. Norris Institute helps launch forward-thinking Minnesota companies and supports their growth. Our seed capital fund provides startup equity and assistance to entrepreneurs who submit original, well-planned business strategies that address important, unmet needs.

The institute also provides a real-life learning platform for St. Thomas business students by including them in the process of reviewing business opportunities, making investments and assisting portfolio companies.

The innovative companies in which we invest are typically in the early stages of commercializing interesting and inventive proprietary products or services. Our investments span a wide range of industries that include:

  • Information technology
  • Health
  • Clean technology
  • Security
  • Consumer services/products
The institute continues the legacy of William C. Norris, the founder of Control Data Corporation – one of the first major computer companies in the United States. Since joining the University of St. Thomas in 2001, the institute has invested in three to five early stage companies each year.

Contact

Bruce W. Nordin

Executive Fellow & Director
Phone Number
(651) 962-4092
47
Since 2001 the institute has invested in 47 new ventures, of which 23 were founded by St. Thomas students and alumni
$4M
Invested more than $4 million in seed capital, leading to over $58 million in additional capital from third party investors
8.5M
Currently the fund has a projected total exit value of equity in portfolio companies of $8.5 million
  • Our Investment Programs
  • The Norris Fund for Innovation
  • James Roger Fox M.D. Fund for Health Care Innovation
  • Our Investment Programs

    The William C. Norris Institute backs innovative companies through two key investment vehicles.

    The Norris Fund for Innovation

    This non-profit, revolving investment program provides equity investments and/or convertible notes of up to $75,000 with possible follow-on investment. These funds are targeted to supplement “family and friends” investments where there has been significant work done to commercialize the concept and validate the business strategy.

    James Roger Fox M.D. Fund for Health Care Innovation

    Established in 2008 with a founding bequest of $1 million from James Roger Fox M.D., who died in 2007, the Health Care Innovation fund allows us to support innovative health care companies. Dr. Fox was a reputable physician, broadcaster and author. Dr. Fox was instrumental in Norris’ decision to merge the nonprofit William C. Norris Institute into the University of St. Thomas business school in 2001.

    Our Investment Programs

    The William C. Norris Institute backs innovative companies through two key investment vehicles.

    The Norris Fund for Innovation

    This non-profit, revolving investment program provides equity investments and/or convertible notes of up to $75,000 with possible follow-on investment. These funds are targeted to supplement “family and friends” investments where there has been significant work done to commercialize the concept and validate the business strategy.

    James Roger Fox M.D. Fund for Health Care Innovation

    Established in 2008 with a founding bequest of $1 million from James Roger Fox M.D., who died in 2007, the Health Care Innovation fund allows us to support innovative health care companies. Dr. Fox was a reputable physician, broadcaster and author. Dr. Fox was instrumental in Norris’ decision to merge the nonprofit William C. Norris Institute into the University of St. Thomas business school in 2001.

    How to Apply

    Companies interested in applying for investment from the William C. Norris Institute should email a business plan to Bruce W. Nordin at bruce.nordin@stthomas.edu.

    Several key criteria are used to screen investment opportunities. The institute may:

    • Call on a network of volunteer consultants in cases where specific technical expertise or additional business perspective is required
    • Invite entrepreneurs to meet with selected members of the network during the review process
    • Involve graduate and undergraduate students in the Opus College of Business in the review and due diligence process

    Companies selected for investment will submit quarterly financial/progress reports. In addition to capital, entrepreneurs and companies can benefit from the many resources available at the University of St. Thomas. 

    Return on equity invested will be deposited for re-investment into new ventures. The long-term goal of the fund is to preserve donated capital and maximize returns that ensure its longevity.

    About William C. Norris (1911-2006)

    William C. Norris was the founder and chairman emeritus of Control Data Corporation—one of the first major computer companies in the United States. He founded the company in 1957 and retired as Chairman and Chief Executive Officer in 1986. From 1988 through 2000 he chaired the non-profit William C. Norris Institute, which he merged with the University of St. Thomas in 2001.

    During his 29 years as CEO of Control Data, Norris led many collaborative initiatives involving government, universities, and business and industry. Norris also helped organize and lead the Northwest Growth Fund, Minnesota Seed Capital Fund, Minnesota Cooperation Office, Minnesota Wellspring, and the Greater Minnesota Corporation (later Minnesota Technology, Inc.). These initiatives supported entrepreneurship and sought to improve Minnesota’s economy by assisting small companies in creating jobs.