Impact Investing: Student-run Venture Funds

Student-run Venture Funds (SVFs) are exciting investment programs that leading research institutions are implementing to both educate students and to support the development of new businesses. Our partner, innovosource, has given us first peek at a new report and the findings suggest that these funds, managed fully or in-part by students, are demonstrating ingenuity in process and real impact in their ability to catalyze on-campus innovation, to develop new business, and to engage businesses, investors, and alumni.

The report details seven, student-run funds ranging in initial fund size from $20K-$1.6M from small-large research institutions. Some of the more interesting, high-level insights include:

  • Majority of funds are sourced through donations and endowments
  • These funds tend to target less developmentally-rigorous technologies like software and social impact
  • All final decisions on funding are made in part by the students, often through the assistance of a diverse and well-structured advisory board
  • Funds are often supported by associated school or state-funded accelerator initiatives to help develop the submissions
  • Funds are beginning to demonstrate value in attracting angel/vc capital and corporate interest to campuses
  • Critical success factors, and associated challenges/mitigations strategies discussed in report, include strategies to develop internal/external support and program strength
  • Future growth opportunities exist in multidisciplinary programs, technical/liberal arts schools, and alignment with tech transfer programs

“Student venture funds represent the perfect opportunity to engage students in the evaluation and investment of tomorrow’s products and services.”, says Jacob Johnson, founder of innovosource, “Universities that launch student venture funds, not only create opportunity for new ideas and educational experiences, but also strongly differentiate their institution from their peers by giving their students “real” experience before graduation.”.

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