Principal, Pit Road Fund
Matt Gardner is the Director of New Ventures and Investments at the University of Notre Dame. In this role, Gardner serves as the manager for the University’s new venture fund and the de-risking gap fund, oversees the movement all university technologies and projects through the de-risking programs, and develops the commercialization process for all Notre Dame inventions, including student start-ups.
Though the U.S. is home to the world’s premier higher education systems and an incredible entrepreneurial business culture, these two forces are often disconnected by what is known as the “Valley of Death” - a narrow space in the life of a University invention when it is too mature to be eligible for research funding, yet simultaneously is too immature for venture capitalists, talented entrepreneurs or established companies to fund or license. Traditional Technology Transfer offices have tried to fill this gap; however, those models are outdated and show no results (95% are ineffective). At Notre Dame, Gardner drives the movement to market of University technologies, ensuring that the life-changing potential technologies at the University of Notre Dame can be developed and launched.
Prior to joining the team at the University of Notre Dame, Gardner served in many roles at the University of Utah in a similar program. From 2013-2017, Gardner oversaw the launch of nearly 120 start-ups through The University of Utah's TVC Accelerator, helping the University achieve a ranking of the #1 Technology Transfer Office in the country. In the same year, the University was ranked as the #1 program in entrepreneurship.
While at the University of Utah, Gardner’s responsibilities were many and varied. Technically, he owned all aspects of product management, including outlining a crisp strategy for how to win in the chosen space, defining features that will help the technology get there (working closely with the engineering team), partnering with design teams to build the ideal user experience, and crafting the go-to-market plan. Gardner also worked directly with the product's customers to understand their needs from both a business and technical perspective. He served as the overall business owner of the projects, responsible for developing business and pricing models, identifying opportunities to grow the business globally, diving deep into customer usage and adoption signals to identify big bets, and representing the product to customers and executive leadership at the highest levels.
Prior to his work for the University of Utah, Gardner worked as the Business Strategist and Director of Media for Child Rescue, a non-profit based out of Los Angeles, CA.
Gardner received a Master of Finance from the University of Utah, his B.A. in English from the University of Utah, and a General Degree in English Literature and Language from the University of Cambridge.