Laurier’s Startup Fund allows students to gain experience as angel investors

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Photo by Madeline McInnis

At the Lazaridis School of Business and Economics, there are many opportunities for young entrepreneurs to learn the business of managing a startup. Laurier’s Schlegel Centre for Entrepreneurship and Social Innovation is a great way for students to engage in the entrepreneurship core or even look into the social entrepreneurship option.

There are also clubs like Startup Laurier, which help to empower students to engage in their entrepreneurial passions.
     However, many students have passed the stage of building their startup as well as managing it and are now looking into financing.

The Laurier Startup Fund is an innovative way for students to look into how financiers and investors play a role in startups that have passed the beginning stages, as many companies rely on their own funds or family money when they are still small.

Brian Smith, an associate professor at the Lazaridis School, supervises both undergraduate and graduate students during their time with the fund.

“The Startup Fund allows students to gain hands on experience as angel investors. They do that by conducting research or what is called due diligence, on these companies and the analysis involves the examination of these companies’ product development, [as well as an] assessment of [the] market that they’re trying to service and assessment of management — so whether they can execute a plan,” Smith said.

Though the startup fund may seem like an extraordinary project, many of the fundamentals needed to run a business, especially one as innovative as a startup, are taught in business administration programs.

“Basically, everything one studies in a business program is covered in this, in the sense that in order for a company to achieve success, they have to properly identify opportunities and need to be able to have a clear plan to sell into that market,” Smith said.

Though students are the main priority of the startup fund, they also work with experienced angel investors to ultimately come to a decision on whether or not to fund a startup.

“We are trying to encourage young women to engage themselves in finance. Women should not be afraid of finance per se — we want early students, first and second year young women to consider finance because it is an interesting job and there is a demand for young women to take the ranks.”

The fund was created by Laurier BBA alumni Mike Stork, who donated $1 million to the fund along with Hennie Stork in 2014. There was also a gift of $500,000 given by the Marsland family to the fund to give to students to help fund what they think are deserving investments.

“These opportunities are a capstone into students’ studies in business and entrepreneurship. This is a course that takes students into the financing of these companies opposed to how to manage a startup. You need to know how a startup should be managed in order to be a financier, but beyond that you need to understand how financing is done after the early stage,” Smith said.

“It’s specialized, people who actually fund these companies are either wealthy individuals or part of institutions that are dedicated to funding startups.”

As for the actual courses, they are much different then courses like Introduction to Entrepreneurship, where students work first-hand with an up-and-coming startup to look at contingencies, different business models that could work for their product, potential customers and other key processes.

“We’re really not there to finance companies from the start. This would be like adolescence. We give them the fuel to grow, when they’re babies they rely on their own capital, other people’s money and grants.
    They need significant outside funds to be able to grow their company in the later stages,” Smith said.

As for the curriculum where this course is included, the associate professor brings up an inequality in the field.

“We are trying to encourage young women to engage themselves in finance. Women should not be afraid of finance per se — we want early students, first and second year young women to consider finance because it is an interesting job and there is a demand for young women to take the ranks,” Smith said.

Though the fund is available for senior students, any students who look to work with entrepreneurs though they may not be one themselves should research the fund and apply when eligible.

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