Jennifer Gill Roberts
3 min readMar 30, 2021


Grit Ventures: Labs to Launch Program

Grit is finding and funding the most powerful minds in AI and Robotics. At the core of our investment thesis is a belief that the next generation of founders in Deep Tech will be graduate students who come from the top AI and Robotics Labs at Universities across the country. The nature of AI and the complexity of the problems we need to solve in this world demand that diverse minds and diverse disciplines come together to find positive and impactful solutions.

Partnering with top universities is not new to us. Since our inception, the Grit team has served on Engineering and Computer Science Advisory Councils, given talks to graduate students and faculty, mentored in entrepreneurship courses and served as judges for entrepreneurial competitions. We’ve also wandered through the most amazing labs out there. Fund I portfolio companies that have spun out of the labs include Diligent Robotics (UT, Georgia Tech), Fifth Season (CMU), Agot (CMU), RIOS (Stanford), and OPT Industries (MIT).

Today, we are taking it to the next level. Grit is very excited to announce the new cornerstones of our Labs to Launch Program, our Academic Council and our University Fellows Program.

Academic Council

Grit Ventures brings together faculty from the nation’s top schools who are focused on commercially applicable research and who are university leaders in entrepreneurship.

Founding Council Members include faculty from the University of Texas at Austin, Carnegie Mellon and CU Boulder including:

Bobby Schnabel, Professor of Computer Science, external chair of the department (including strategic planning, tech community and alumni relations, and faculty mentoring), College of Engineering and Applied Science Faculty Director for Entrepreneurship, and Campus Thought-Leader on Computing. University of Colorado at Boulder

Dr. Justin Hart, Research Professor, Assistant Director of Robotics at University of Texas at Austin

Dr. Christopher Heckman, Assistant Professor, Computer Science, CU Boulder

Dr. Joydeep Biswas Assistant Professor, Computer Science, University of Texas at Austin

Dr. Changliu Liu, Assistant Professor, Robotics Institute, Carnegie Mellon University

We expect to add members to this impressive group from additional schools including Stanford, UC Berkeley, MIT, Georgia Tech and the University of Michigan in the coming year.

The purpose of the Academic Council is to leverage the deep insights, technical knowledge and university connections of these folks to source exciting opportunities in the labs and to fund these companies at the pre-seed level and help them launch commercially. These faculty also host our Labs to Launch panel series including topics like Early Stage Funding Strategies, Pilot Execution, Go-to-Market Strategies, and Robotics-as-a-Service Business Models.

In return we will support their grad students through mentoring and summer intern roles in our portfolio companies and connect them to each other and to interesting corporate relationships we have. Many of these graduate students will end up Grit University Fellows.

Grit University Fellows

Many graduate students in AI, Robotics and Entrepreneurship want more exposure to venture capital and startups. We are officially launching our University Fellows this year at the University of Texas at Austin and Carnegie Mellon with a focus on women and underrepresented minority students. We will expand the program in 2022 to include other schools. We are looking for graduate students who have broad interests in AI and Robotics, who are looking to pursue entrepreneurial careers and who are interested in sourcing interesting new technologies coming out of the labs at their university and in their ecosystem and finding opportunities for the Grit Team and our Academic Council to engage with faculty and graduate students on their campus. Our first fellow, Melanie Landesberg, Mechanical Engineering/Robotics major at Yale is helping us design and scale this new program.