Working with senior finance major Emily Kist from Pierre, South Dakota, and the University of Nebraska Foundation, Joe Petsick, executive in residence and assistant professor of practice in management, helped create the Husker Venture Fund (HVF), a student-led venture capital fund for early-stage startups. Built on a partnership between the College of Business and Invest Nebraska, the fund continues to grow due to the generous support of donors and help from the College of Business Development team.
“The Husker Venture Fund is essential to fill a gap in the funding cycle for early-stage startups, because there are few institutional options available in Nebraska,” Petsick said. “Additionally, there was a lack of internships and professional opportunities for any student interested in a potential career in venture capital or startup investing. Creating a student-led fund exposes dozens of students to the type of hands-on learning that would allow them to become fluent in startup investing.”
Open to any industry, all Nebraska-owned early-stage startups can apply for funds with priority going to student-led businesses first. Faculty and alumni businesses, University of Nebraska–Lincoln intellectual property and those with other connections to the university follow.
“Though open to any industry, the businesses must have scalable and innovative technology or software. We plan to deploy annual awards for up to four startups. Returns from successful businesses will replenish the funds somewhat, but donor support is a crucial part of the success of the Husker Venture Fund,” Petsick said.
The HVF provides funding for traditional businesses. Though students promoting themselves as a business would not be eligible, Petsick believes there will be students coming to Nebraska who own an existing business who could benefit from the fund.
“It’s not uncommon for students or student-athletes to run startups, small businesses and side hustles while in college. This is why it was important that the Husker Venture Fund support all students across the university, including student-athletes as part of what we are offering with Accelerate,” Petsick said.
Kist along with Adam Folsom, a senior finance and management major from Omaha, Nebraska, helped fundraise, research and prepare for the fund to go online. Operating as a student organization around the fund, members apply to get hands-on investment experience, foster relationships in the startup community and fund homegrown innovative ideas and solutions. Petsick credits them for making the fund a reality.
“I’ve gained unparalleled experience working with talented students, supportive faculty, gracious donors and professionals to ‘Start Something’ at the College of Business. I wanted to provide a unique, hands-on learning experience for students interested in startup financing, while also providing necessary funding to early-stage companies,” Kist said. “It is essential to continue providing resources and building connections between our campus and the startup community.”
To learn more about the Husker Venture Fund, visit https://business.unl.edu/huskerventure.