While several universities sponsor venture funds, the Catalyst Student Venture Fund is unique because it provides seed capital and assistance from experienced entrepreneurs to support the launch of student-created businesses that are also good for the local economy.
The idea is to take a student’s entrepreneurial ideas “off paper and put them into practice … go beyond the theoretical,” A panel of entrepreneurs, business leaders and educators selected the first three recipients of $25,000 in seed capital investments in May.
The venture fund fits nicely with CSUSB’s goal of providing experiential learning for its students, according to Dr. Al Karnig, the university’s president. The idea is to take a student’s entrepreneurial ideas “off paper and put them into practice … go beyond the theoretical,” Dr. Karnig said.
Serial technology entrepreneur Amro Albanna, CEO of Avisio Inc. in Riverside, who served on the first investment panel, notes that the fund is designed for early-stage seed capital companies. The amounts required are small and the funded companies are monitored closely, required to hit specific milestones and teamed up with an experienced mentor.
“True hands-on experience is being implemented. One comes to CSUSB with a vision to become an entrepreneur; that in itself is amazing.”Dr. Mike Stull, director of the University’s Center for Entrepreneurship and Karen Bowerman, dean of the College of Business and Public Administration, are seeking outside funding to help grow the fund. “Ultimately it’s a fund that will take equity in the companies,” Dr. Stull said. The round just completed is being treated like a forgivable loan.
“If there’s a one-word description for what I’ve seen of the program, it would be experiential,” said Lina Ramos, investment panelist and president of Emerging Growth Enterprises in La Jolla, a consultancy that helps companies develop products into successful businesses. “True hands-on experience is being implemented. One comes to CSUSB with a vision to become an entrepreneur; that in itself is amazing.”
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