FARGO – Three North Dakota State University students are seeking to create a $1 million venture capital fund.
The founders of Pathway Ventures made their initial public appeal for investors on Wednesday, Oct. 23, at the 1 Million Cups Fargo event at The Stage at Island Park.
The student-run venture capital group aims to help students and start-ups get the knowledge and capital they need to get going and thrive.
“There are definitely a lot of student entrepreneurs. They are kind of in that stage where they are thinking, how do I take my company one step further?” said Nathan Marcotte, an NDSU senior who is Pathway Ventures’ executive managing director.
“Sometimes, VC funding is that answer and sometimes it’s also getting them those resources, too,” Marcotte said Friday, Oct. 25.
The initial goal is to raise $100,000 before Jan. 1, with the full $1 million in hand by the end of 2020. Donations can be made through the NDSU Foundation and Alumni Association and all donations are tax-deductible.
Other universities in the region have venture capital investment funds in place, said Hannah Lange, a senior who is Pathway’s managing director of business development.
For example, the University of Minnesota has Atland Ventures and the University of North Dakota has Dakota Venture Group, she said.
Pathway Ventures’ board of directors includes representatives from Fargo-based Arthur Ventures and from Dickinson, N.D.-based Annie Capital, as well as Scott Meyer, NDSU’s Ozbun Executive Director of Entrepreneurship
Lange is hoping for a fast start.
“My goal is to have us invested in at least five companies by the time next year rolls around,” Lange said. “I hope we have a lot of student members involved. I have a goal of 20 student members by the end of next year. And then, hopefully, grow our board, too.”
Lange said any gifts will keep on giving, as profits will be plowed back into the fund.
“One donation will impact the students for many, many years and provide experiences and knowledge that would not be available in the classroom,” Lange said.
Dieumerci Christel, a senior and a young entrepreneur himself, is Pathway’s managing director of marketing. He is the founder and CEO of Enlight, a startup for an app to help teachers connect with their students faster.
The fund’s student members will choose the companies to get investments, do research and other due diligence, and manage the fund’s operations.
Meyer, who works out of The Nice Center at NDSU, says there is a need for seed money.
“We need more capital for early-stage companies so that students have the confidence to try and start their ideas. I think there’s a lot of support as a company grows, but it’s difficult in those early days to really get started,” Meyer said.
There’s also the educational component.
“It’s really good to see what investors look for. What a good company is. And so by participating in Pathway Ventures, they learn that in the real world. They learn how to evaluate a company. To look at a financial statement. To identify emerging trends. And they’ll be sitting in boardrooms with other venture capital firms, really learning how to work in the professional world as a young person, which I think is a really important skill, no matter what they do afterwards,” Meyer said.
Wednesday’s announcement is the first step in shaking the region’s money trees to find investors, Meyer said.
He hopes NDSU can grow a fund to match other universities.
“I think It’s a good challenge for NDSU to keep up with regional rivals in that way, too,” Meyer said. “But the fact that the students will be leading it, I think, is a great example of how we can ask more of our students and see more results. So we’re excited to have that happen.”
For more information or to contact the fund’s founders, you can go online to vcpathway.com, or email firstname.lastname@example.org.
They group is also on Facebook, Instagram and LinkedIn.