At Simon Business School, Students Become Investors

At Simon Business School, Students Become Investors
From Recruiter - November 30, 2016

A couple weeks back, we spoke with Zachary Slayback of Praxis, a career accelerator that pairs the brightest young talent with high-growth startups. Praxis began, in part, as a response to perceived shortcomings in higher education. The organizations founder, Isaac Moorehouse, saw that many college students werent learning the skills they actually needed to succeed in the business world, so he started a program that would teach those very skills through experiential learning, rather than classroom lectures.

I bring this up because I wonder how Slayback and Moorehouse would respond to the Simon Venture Fund(SVF), an early stage seed fund run by MBA and masters students at the University of Rochesters Simon School of Business.

Many believe that the skills gap is due, in part, to ahigher education system that doesnt equip students with real-world skills. If that is the case, the SVF is a clear example of one school addressing the problem directly by giving studentsthe opportunity to step out of the classroom and into thereal world.

Venture capital is becoming more mainstream and getting more publicity, says Brad Banikowski,a former student manager of the SVF who now sits on the fundsadvisory board, which consists of alumni and faculty members. Working with startups and entrepreneurs is becoming more a focus for the university as well. The amount you can learn [through the SVF] beyond whats covered in a classroom setting just adds to the education.

A Student-Run Venture Fund

The SVF began in 2012 as the result of a $1 million donation from Simon School of Business alumnus Dan Lazarek. Lazarek was later joined by alumnus Joe Abrams, who donated an additional $750,000. The fund made its first investment in 2013, and to date, it has invested $400,000 across 12 companies, with additional commitments of more than $1.4 million for future investments.

Students can participate in the fund in one of three ways: as regular members, who attend meetings to watch and learn; as analysts, who carry out due diligence on companies and pitch potential investments to the fund; and as members of the student management team, whooversee the fund.

Senior analysts become leaders if they do good work and express willingness to take on more responsibility and leadership, explains Lavin Godhwani, current president of the student management team.

Its really a collaborative thing as well, adds Banikowski Students get to identify different roles they may want to take on for the following year, and the current management team willdo the best we can to set them up for success in the next year through shadowing experiences and things like that.

While the funds advisory board has the final say in which investments are made, the overall process is almost entirelystudent-driven.

Teams of student analysts pitch companies for potential investment to club members during weekly meetings. Members critique and vote on these pitches. Those pitches that pass the vote are brought to the advisory board, which works with the student management team to decide whether or not an investment should be made.

The Benefits of Diving In

Simon students view the SVF as more than just an enjoyable extracurricularthey see it as a critical component of their education that lets them engage with the world outside of the classroom.


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