Kickstart Seed Fund is launching a $500,000 student-run venture fund aptly named the Campus Founders Fund.
“We’re doing something similar to the Dorm Room Fund. I really like what they did to target young people to get them interested in venture capital and startups,” said Kickstart Partner Dalton Wright. “It’s been percolating a little bit, this idea — could we innovate on that model and do something special here in Utah?”
The new fund will be managed by a team of 8-10 students, primarily from BYU and the University of Utah — although Kickstart is encouraging standout students from any campus in Utah, regardless of school affiliation, to apply for funding or to become a member of the Campus Founders Fund investment team.
The fund’s student investment team will be responsible for identifying and selecting the best entrepreneurs throughout Utah’s universities. The Campus Founders Fund will then provide $10,000-$20,000 to help these budding founders test an idea and develop an initial product.
The fund’s investments will be structured as founder-friendly, convertible notes without caps or discounts. The team at Kickstart will be actively involved in the fund by providing ongoing training, and introducing the student founders to prominent mentors.
“Campus Founders Fund is a great opportunity to give the top students at these universities the shot at making their own investments, sourcing their own deals, learning how venture capital works, and hopefully be given the opportunity to say, ‘I was the first investor in the next great company to come out of Utah,’” said Wright.
Since its launch in 2008, Kickstart has easily been the most active seed fund in Utah. The Campus Founders Fund seems to be an extension of their efforts to bet big on the Beehive State and to help grow its ever-growing startup and tech ecosystem.
“I personally have a pretty strong incentive to give back to students at the university level,” said Wright. “When I first started at the U, I knew nothing about venture capital. I was on the wayward path to become a lawyer, and it was because of University Venture Fund that I actually found my passion and started my first company in college. Giving bright students the opportunity to actually discover innovation, investments, new venture finance, or start companies is something we want to support.”
Kickstart’s Morgan Davis will serve as Program Director and liaison with the Campus Founders Fund’s student investment team.
In the short-term, Kickstart is hoping to encourage entrepreneurship and innovation within Utah’s universities. In the long-term, the investment firm believes the trust they manage to build with some of these talented student entrepreneurs will eventually pay off once they leave school and go build impressive companies. They also believe the Campus Founders Fund provides a unique opportunity that is currently unavailable to university students in the state.
“Right now there’s not an experience on Utah’s campuses where your peers can evaluate and validate you as the next great entrepreneur,” said Kickstart Managing Director Gavin Christensen.
Applications are currently being accepted for students interested in becoming a member of the Campus Founders Fund inaugural investment team. Information sessions and interviews will be conducted on campus during the first weeks of class.
“I think Campus Founders Fund gives us a unique, scalable way to teach a group of students to fish, and then have them take it from there,” said Christensen.