At the start of National Small Business Week this week, James Madison University’s Gilliam Center for Entrepreneurship is launching the Bluestone Seed Fund, a donor-backed mutual fund that provides equity investments in student and alumni businesses while providing hands-on experience with venture investing Experience for JMU students. The program is the first of its kind at JMU.
Students can promote investments as Student Founders or participate as Student Venture Associates to gain hands-on experience in 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, legal businesses and raise real seed capital for their startups. On the investment side, students gain unique experience in venture investing. The work these students are doing with the Bluestone Seed Fund will greatly benefit them no matter what career or industry they choose after graduation. “
With the introduction of the Bluestone Seed Fund, the JMU joins other elite universities across the country that support venture investments for student-run startups.
“We looked at successful seed funds at other universities and then added the Madison touch. What is special about the Bluestone Seed Fund is the possibility for a large number of students to participate, ”said Mary Ann Alger, who helped develop the concept. “In addition to students seeking capital for their own ventures, other students can raise deals, perform due diligence, and monitor the investment portfolio – all of these are powerful learning experiences. Alumni and other external consultants will help with all aspects of the fund, providing students with additional mentoring. ”
Investing in for-profit businesses by entrepreneurs will enliven the Bluestone Seed Fund portfolio.
The startup selection will be highly competitive. Student founders will apply and then present to the Bluestone Seed Fund’s 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 percent stake in their start-up. Student Venture Associates helps recruit, review, and select Student Founders finalists to come up with ideas. They are privy to pitches in the room and in the advice and selection process and monitor the investment portfolio.
For the first investment round, the fund is open to current students or doctoral candidates as well as alumni from 2021. It is open to all JMU alumni who have completed their studies within the last five years, regardless of their current location, in the spring semester of 2022. The first cohort of Student Venture Associates will be announced later this month. Investment decisions are expected at the end of the year.
“Our students now have the opportunity to either present or be the shark, succeed or fail quickly, 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, chairman of the Gilliam Center for Entrepreneurship Advisory Council and owner of Rebibo Ventures, LLC.