The Rebel Venture Capital Fund is seeking University of Mississippi students that harbor the entrepreneurial spirit and are interested in a grant to get their business started.
The RVCF is an independent, alumni-supported investment group that works as a non-profit entity. They’re separate from the university but exist solely to fund businesses started by Ole Miss students. The fund has a pool of money that it manages with an intent to earn a small return on that investment and to donate a portion of the proceeds from those investments back to the university.
“Through discussions with another Business Advisory Board Member, William Alias, we knew that other universities were sponsoring venture funds for students,” said Bill Fry, a member of the Business Advisory Board. “After meeting with a friend who coordinates such a fund for Vanderbilt, we decided to start one for Ole Miss.”
The university officially approved the effort in the spring of last year and awarded their first grants in the fall. Currently, the RVCF has funded two companies: Chasing Ten Figures, a clothing line endorsing hard work and its rewards, and Geeks N’ Gigs, a web portal that connect students with part-time work in the Oxford community.
“Everyone working with the RVCF genuinely cares about student entrepreneurship. It is definitely more than just a way to get funding for your venture,” said Alicia Netterville, one of the founders of Geeks ‘n’ Gigs. “The RVCF has provided us with mentors, both entrepreneurs and business students, and valuable community connections.”
The initial screen of investment proposals is handled by the faculty at Ole Miss. Student groups submit a two-page executive summary of their idea, their progress and their supporting research to the Center for Innovation and Entrepreneurship two weeks before the final investment pitch. If a panel of faculty deem a business idea ready for investment, they will invite students to pitch their idea to the RVCF board. Once invested, they will ask for updates from you about your business, help you get the support you need and potentially open up other opportunities for funding and expansion through their personal networks. Depending on the investment terms, the business may need to pay dividends back to its investors, including the RVCF. The RVCF donates 20 percent of its proceeds to the business school while the rest are used to fund new student businesses.
“We hope that the businesses we fund are successful and really make money. We want the students to get rich and donate some of that money back to Ole Miss,” said Fry. “If not, we hope the students learn valuable lessons that make them successful in another venture down the road.”
All Ole Miss students are eligible for the RVCF with most grants ranging from $2000-$5000. Interested applicants need to submit their summary, address and contact information online by midnight on March 20.