The Husker Venture Fund (HVF) at the University of Nebraska–Lincoln selected 23 students to join the student-led program as associates. The fund, built by alumni and university supporters, offers hands-on investment experience to students of any major while providing funding to early-stage startups in Nebraska.
"In Nebraska, all investing in early-stage startups basically happens through friends and family, so if you didn't have that network, your ability to successfully start a company is incredibly challenging. The Husker Venture Fund offers people a shot they didn't have before, which could be transformational for the state," said Samuel Nelson, HVF faculty advisor, director of the Center for Entrepreneurship and associate professor of practice in management. "It presents a win-win situation for our students and community. These 20-plus students get invaluable real-world experience that gives them access to participate in venture capital opportunities."
The students first applied to and participated in an eight-week Venture Boot Camp, in which they learned the terminology and principles of venture capital through projects, quizzes and lectures by guest speakers. The boot camp culminated with a project that split students into teams to conduct due diligence on a company to simulate the fund's process of selecting new investments. Based on their participation and performance, 23 participants were selected to join HVF as associates.
"Throughout the boot camp, members gained insights from the experiences shared by the fund's managing directors and Jimmy Whebbe, our director of new member education. HVF is unique in that its operations are completely student-led. This means that everything – from screening companies and completing due diligence to voting on investments – is entirely done by students. Our boot camp benefits from a similar structure, making room for intentional learning and hands-on experience," said Ateev Bhandari, a senior accounting and business administration major from Amritsar, India, who serves HVF as one of three managing directors.
The HVF membership structure resembles a typical venture capital fund with students starting as general members and can advance to associates, senior associates and managing directors. Beyond investing more than $100,000 in Nebraska businesses this year, HVF's managing directors also prioritized advancing diversity and inclusion in the venture capital industry.
"Venture capital is well-known for its exclusivity and closed doors, and we want to change that. This group of new associates brings together students from different disciplines and backgrounds," said Maria Heyen, HVF managing director and a senior international business and Clifton Builders management major from Astoria, Oregon. "When I joined HVF last fall, I was one of two women. Being a woman interested in finance, I know this will not be the last time I am 'outnumbered,' but I'm proud to say that this second class of associates is composed of 20% women and 21% study outside the College of Business. We are intentionally bringing in students who have typically been excluded from the world of venture capital."
To learn more about HVF, visit https://business.unl.edu/huskerventure.
The 2022-23 Husker Venture Fund associates include:
Blair: Charlie Trofholz, freshman finance
Elkhorn: Michael Day, junior accounting and finance
Lincoln: Amir Tarkian, freshman computer science and physics
Omaha: Eric Allbery, senior mechanical engineering; Nolan Cubrich, freshman business administration; Landen Fogle, freshman computer science; Will Manhart, junior finance; Reese Munson, junior economics; Connor Wickless, junior finance; Edwin Bahena-Flores, senior finance
Papillion: Kirk Bramwell, freshman computer science; Sam Pribyl, junior economics and supply chain management
Published: December 8, 2022
Salvador, Brazil: Thiago Pereira, junior business administration
Crystal Lake, Illinois: Will Anderson, junior software engineering
Courtland, Kansas: Carolina Barraza, freshman accounting and marketing
Leawood, Kansas: Ike McLey, sophomore finance
Overland Park, Kansas: Colby Marsden, junior finance
Bloomington, Minnesota: Gretchen Holland, freshman business and law and finance
St. Paul, Minnesota: Jack Britten, junior accounting
Lake Winnebago, Missouri: Sophie Brendel, senior business and law
Lee's Summit, Missouri: Garrett Smith, sophomore accounting and Clifton Builders management
Mahwah, New Jersey: Gillian Burns, junior finance
Sioux Falls, South Dakota: Jonathan Skelton, freshman computer science and mathematics