There is a (gradual) changing of the guard at the University of Minnesota’s Venture Center.
Beginning last July, director Doug Johnson trimmed his work schedule to three days a week, allowing associate director Russ Straate to assume more responsibilities.
Straate, who eventually will replace Johnson, is a former executive at IMI plc, a U.K.-based fluidics company, and Schneider Electric, where his primary focus was driving new business growth.
He also worked with current Office for Technology Commercialization (OTC) chief Jay Schrankler at Honeywell Inc. where Straate served as director of business development for the company’s control and automation unit.
Johnson, a former investment banker and venture capitalist, has worked hard to professionalize the school’s technology transfer efforts.
Together with Shrankler, Johnson established an innovation fund that provides seed capital to develop technology, and a CEO-in-Residence program that recruits experienced entrepreneurs to advise and eventually lead university-bred startups.
Under Johnson’s watch, the school spun out companies ranging from Miromatrix Inc., a stem cell/regenerative organ startup founded by Doris Taylor, to XO Thermix Medical Inc., which is developing a device to treat chronic venous insufficiency, a blood vessel disorder in the leg that can lead to life threatening ulcers and infections of the lower extremities.