This fall Utah Valley University will launch the Wolverine Fund — a student run venture capital group that provides a hands-on engaged learning experience in entrepreneurial investing. The fund gives students the opportunity to receive money for business ideas they have. And, the “Wolverine Associates,” a student group who will complete the selection and analysis process to vet those business ideas, will also gather business deals from a network of investors around the nation and the community. The students will be engaged in a similar process to that seen on the nationally syndicated television show Shark Tank.
“[The fund] is providing our students with a hands-on, engaged learning opportunity to invest in businesses directly,” executive director and Foundation COO Jeff Moss said. “It gives [students] a chance to take real money and invest it in start-up companies.”
Utah was recently ranked #1 for entrepreneurship and #2 for innovation in 2016 by CNBC. UVU in particular has seen nationally-ranked success in student organizations such as AMA, Enactus, CAL, PFP, and others. UVU has the ingredients for success, not only as a haven for new ideas, but also incredible academic ability.
Under the direction of the UVU Foundation with support from UVU’s Entrepreneurship Institute, the Wolverine Fund will operate as an undergraduate program led by community experts in the venture capital industry.
“The institute’s focus is trying to make sure the students [that we invest in] can be successful,” Moss said. “Our goal is to make sure they have a good return.”
Thus far, the UVU Foundation has raised nearly $100,000 and plans to raise $2.5 million to be used for entrepreneurial investments. The hope is that, overtime, the fund will see a return on its investments and recycle back into the fund for further use, in addition to supporting the larger UVU endowment.
“As a serial entrepreneur, I know how challenging it is to launch a business,” UVU foundation chair James Clarke said. “The goal of the UVU Wolverine Fund is to support our students through the difficult aspects of getting a business off the ground. Through our network of successful entrepreneurs and investors, we can help these young companies succeed.”
Student’s with creative ideas receive funding, a new engaged learning program is born and the return on investment will support new ideas as well as student scholarships. Supported by the community and the state, the UVU Wolverine Fund may yet help begin the next unicorn company in the rising silicone slope region.
Student’s interested in applying for the Wolverine Associates program must take a pre-requisite course, “Seminar Venture Cap Skills” MGMT 494R. This course is now open for registration for spring semester.
“A spirit of entrepreneurship is at the heart of the UVU Foundation Board. Many of our board members are successful entrepreneurs themselves and know how critical it is to have the resources necessary to start and grow scalable businesses,” VP of UVU Development and Alumni Relations and CEO of UVU Foundation Scott Cooksey said. “Our goal for the UVU Wolverine Fund is to support the core mission of engaged learning at Utah Valley University while also providing investments and future scholarship funds for our student entrepreneurs.”
Additional reporting by Matthew Bryson.