Last year, President Barack Obama launched the Startup America initiative to help increase the prevalence and success of entrepreneurs across the country. In this same spirit, Steve Case, co-founder and former CEO of America Online, raised $450 million for a new Revolution Growth Fund to help rebuild and reinvigorate a "startup" culture in the Northern Virginia region.
In response to this new initiative to support America's most pioneering entrepreneurs, Mason's School of Management has launched the Mason Student Venture Fund to help harness the entrepreneurial energy and innovative spirit of the university's student body. The venture fund will provide monetary support, training and mentorship for a team of students from any academic discipline at Mason to explore ideas for business products and services.
"We are very excited to be able to offer the support of this venture fund to our students and help expand opportunities for them to acquire entrepreneurial skills, knowledge and perspective," says Mahesh Joshi, associate professor of management. "The fund will also allow students to connect with successful entrepreneurs and investors in the community, thereby increasing the number of new companies and products brought to market by Mason students."
Funding for the venture fund was provided by Lovey Hammel, BS Marketing '88, a member of Mason's Board of Visitors, and Charles McGrath, BS Finance and Decision Science '86. With the support of additional donations, the School of Management will launch the fund with $150,000 with plans to eventually grow the fund to $1 million. The funds will be invested in an endowment with the George Mason University Foundation, but Mason students will make the investment decisions.
The first student group will be awarded $20,000 of seed money and in-kind services from attorneys, accountants and other providers in fall 2012. Students will also have the opportunity to partner with Mason faculty, researchers, investors and entrepreneurs from academic and private sectors. The fund will connect student entrepreneurs to resources available at Mason, as well as with the startup communities in the Northern Virginia and Washington, D.C., region.
In addition, the venture fund will help support the Dean's Business Plan Competition, an annual contest sponsored by the School of Management. Business plans that focus on sustainable development are submitted by undergraduate student teams and evaluated by a panel entrepreneurial experts from around the country. The winning team receives a monetary award.
"We need to ensure that the United States remains the world's most entrepreneurial nation, and universities can play an integral role in this effort," says Case, who was recently featured in the School of Management's Johnson & Strachan Speaker's Series. "I'm glad to see Mason's business school is taking an aggressive step by developing a student venture fund."