W Fund Provides Opportunity for Foster School Undergraduate Students to Help Manage a Major Venture Fund

Undergraduate students from the University of Washington will gain valuable training and practical experience serving as student venture associates of the newly launched W Fund. The university-focused venture fund aims to invest approximately $20 million over the next four years to promising start-ups spinning out of the UW and other research institutions across the state, managers of the fund announced today.

“The W Fund will directly advance the academic mission of the University of Washington by providing rich experiential opportunities for students to take a material role in the W Fund’s investment process,” said James Jiambalvo, dean of the UW Foster School of Business. “Student venture associates will work under the guidance of a faculty member and be coached by members of the Investment Committee. Their work will influence decisions on investments of $500,000 or more.”

In their roles as SVAs, students will engage in investment due diligence and prepare investment memoranda regarding their findings for investment opportunities represented by companies seeking Fund investment.

“For students, there’s a clear and prestigious value-add here,” said Connie Bourassa-Shaw, director of the UW Foster School Center for Innovation and Entrepreneurship (CIE). “The program will arm them with transferable skills – a big advantage for those seeking jobs in private equity and other financial institutions.”

With the benefit of the student venture associates’ diligence reports, Fund decisions will be made by the W Fund Investment Committee, which includes top executives from leading venture capital firms in the Pacific Northwest, including Madrona Venture Group, OVP, ARCH Venture Partners, and WRF Capital. The Fund is expected to invest in 20 or more start-ups between 2012 and 2016.

The W Fund worked with Bourassa-Shaw to engage a full-time instructor to teach a new venture investing course, a prerequisite for undergraduate students seeking to apply to become Venture Associates. More than 75 UW students have taken the class to date, representing a wide range of departments including entrepreneruship, finance, chemical engineering, bioengineering, economics, mathematics, and statistics. The instructor also serves as the student program director for the SVA program, coaching the students’ execution of business diligence and analysis.

“We’re committed to commercialization programs at the UW not only having the direct benefits of getting innovations out of the lab and into the world, but also creating educational opportunities for students,” said Linden Rhoads, general manager of the W Fund and vice provost for overseeing the UW’s Center for Commercialization.

The UW Student Venture Associates are an element of UW’s Bridge Funding Program. Developed in response to Washington state legislation, the UW Bridge Funding Program is dedicated to expanding funding opportunities for University start-ups and providing opportunities for students to participate in real-world early-stage funding activities. The SVA program was established by the UW Center for Commercialization (C4C) and is funded by both the C4C and the Washington Research Foundation, working in collaboration with the Foster School Center for Innovation and Entrepreneurship, to foster experiential learning opportunities for UW students.