By Scott Dance
The Baltimore Sun.
Starting this fall, student entrepreneurs at Johns Hopkins University will be pitching their ideas to a new yet familiar group of investors — their classmates.
A group of Hopkins students and alumni are launching A-Level Capital, a traditional venture capital firm in every legal and practical sense. But decisions to invest the fund’s money will be made not by seasoned entrepreneurs or investors, but by students eager to learn the process of vetting and supporting startups.
“It’s really a student-run team,” said Corey Li, a 22-year-old senior who is helping to lead the organization. “It’s not like one person is making the decision.”
The venture fund seeks to expand opportunities for startups founded by Hopkins students and alumni. Leaders plan to invest between $5,000 and $25,000 in 15 companies this academic year and 80 companies over the next five years, said Elizabeth Galbut, who is organizing the fund and is a 2015 alumna of a joint Hopkins business and Maryland Institute College of Art masters program.
But it also aims to expose students to the world of venture capital, connecting them to investors who might provide further financial support and advice down the road and taking them through the investing process.
The fund fits alongside the university’s other efforts to boost entrepreneurship, like its growing FastForward accelerator and the Blue Jay Syndicate, a group of angel investors who are Hopkins alumni.
“Sourcing investments, analyzing the investments and then, once you’ve invested, following those investments, all of those are so critical to the life cycle of a company and of an investment,” said Christy Wyskiel, senior adviser to Hopkins President Ronald J. Daniels for entrepreneurship and technology transfer. “To have exposure to that as a student is really helpful and remarkable and true real-world experience.”