At the start of National Small Business Week this week, the Gilliam Center for Entrepreneurship at James Madison University is launching the Bluestone Seed Fund, a donor-backed investment fund that will provide equity investments in student companies and graduates, while providing the venture capital investment experience for JMU students. The program is the first of its kind at JMU.
Students can present their company for investment purposes as a founding student or participate as a student associated with a company for hands-on experience of the investment process.
“This is not a student scholarship competition,” said Suzanne Bergmeister, executive director of the Gilliam Center for Entrepreneurship. “Students will present their real and legal businesses and raise real seed capital for their startups. On the investment side, students will gain unique experience in venture capital investment. The work these students do with the Bluestone Seed Fund will be of great benefit to them no matter what career or industry they choose to enter after graduation.
With the launch of the Bluestone Seed Fund, JMU joins other elite universities nationwide that support venture capital investment for student-led startups.
“We looked at successful seed funds at other universities and then added the Madison twist. What is unique about the Bluestone Seed Fund is the ability for a large number of students to get involved, ”said Mary Ann Alger, who helped develop the concept. “In addition to students seeking capital for their own businesses, other students can seek deals, conduct due diligence, and monitor the investment portfolio – all impactful learning experiences. Alumni and other external advisors will assist in all aspects of the Fund, providing additional mentorship to students. ”
Investments in for-profit entrepreneurial ventures will boost the Bluestone Seed Fund portfolio.
The selection of startups will be very competitive. The founding students will apply and then present themselves to the Bluestone Seed Fund investment committee, which is made up of JMU alumni, donors, faculty and community experts. Companies selected for investment will receive $ 5,000 in exchange for a 5% stake in their start-up. Student Venture Associates will help recruit, monitor and select student founding finalists to pitch their ideas. They will be in the room when the pitches are made and aware of the deliberations and the selection process and will oversee the investment portfolio.
For the first round of investments, the fund is open to current undergraduate or graduate students and alumni from 2021. It will be open to all JMU alumni who have graduated within the past five years, whichever whatever their current location, in the spring semester of 2022. The first cohort of Student Venture Associate will be announced later this month. Investment decisions are expected at the end of the year.
“Our students will now have the opportunity to present or be the shark, to pass or fail quickly, to learn from that experience and be ready for the next opportunity. As an entrepreneur, I know the value that this type of experiential learning brings, ”said Michael Rebibo, chair of the Gilliam Center for Entrepreneurship Advisory Board and owner of Rebibo Ventures, LLC.