MSU Announces New Student VC Fund, Winners of Inaugural Pitch Contest
Michigan State University students now have an opportunity to dabble in the rollercoaster world of startup funding thanks to a new partnership between Red Cedar Ventures and the Broad College of Business Center for Venture Capital, Private Equity and Entrepreneurial Finance.
Launched this week, the Student Venture Capital Fund will invest up to $50,000 per year in early-stage companies led by MSU students and faculty, or housed at the university’s venture center. Finance students will take on due diligence responsibilities to get a taste of the industry’s risks and rewards.
“We’re laser-focused on ensuring students are receiving experiential learning opportunities,” says Aaryn Richard, spokesman for Red Cedar Ventures, the wholly owned venture investment subsidiary of the Michigan State University Foundation. “Entrepreneurship is alive and well on the MSU campus.”
Richard says finance students are already conducting investment evaluations for more than 20 startups. The Student Venture Capital Fund will announce the results of its evaluations and award capital at an on-campus event on April 26. The fund, he adds, is open to startups regardless of sector. The first round of evaluations included companies focused on everything from cybersecurity and mobile apps to food and long-term senior care.
The student fund’s pipeline will come from events like the Burgess New Venture Challenge (BNVC), a pitch competition that held its inaugural event this week, as well as programs such as the MSU Hatch accelerator. Richard says the BNVC is a collaboration between Spartan Innovations and the Burgess Institute for Entrepreneurship and Innovation, and is designed to promote “entrepreneurship, leadership, and innovation at MSU.” It’s named after alumnus Robert Burgess, a businessman and longtime university adviser.
Fifteen MSU student startups participated in the BNVC for a chance to win scholarship prizes totaling more than $40,000. Here’s a bit more about each of the top five winners:
—Skoop ($15,000): The company’s electric pedicabs include digital advertising displays attached to the exterior and interior, which subsidizes the cost of the ride for passengers. While on board, riders can also charge their phones and pick the music they listen to.
—Perch ($10,000): Using a proprietary matching algorithm, the Perch website connects employers with applicants in an effort to find talent for academic research groups, university departments, and industrial research and development companies.
—Zonder ($5,000): The company’s app gamifies travel, rewarding players with achievement badges when they visit new attractions. Users can also complete “quests” and share their journeys with friends and family.
—Classii ($3,000): By parsing publicly available data, the Classii app helps students find others in their classes, ask questions, and form study groups at their university.
—Emage Technologies ($2,000): A wireless auto-diagnostics tool to increase pipeline safety in industrial settings, Emage Technologies automates the inspection process and transmits vital information about leaks, cracks, corrosion, material degradation, pressure, and more.