Carlson student-run business investing in Twin Cities business startups

The capital venture business firm was created to give students experience in the field.

by Michelle Griffith

A company run by University of Minnesota students is investing in local startups and bringing new business to the Twin Cities. 

Atland Ventures, a venture capital firm initiated by four University students in 2016, invests in startup companies that are at the beginning stages of development. Because there aren’t many venture capital investment firms in the Twin Cities, Atland Ventures is in a unique position, said Rob Weber, a local entrepreneur and advisor of the firm.

“There’s not a lot about venture capital taught in universities currently,” said Matt Jessen-Howard, a director at Atland Ventures and Carlson School of Management senior. “Venture capital is very difficult to be exposed to or break in to.”

The lack of exposure to venture capital makes it a hard career to get into after college, Jessen-Howard said. 

Atland Ventures recently invested in two software companies. It plans to invest in 35 companies over the next seven years in an effort to add many new businesses to the Twin Cities.

Twenty-three students are part of the firm, actively fundraising and conducting research for their next investment. The application process for the company is selective — it accepted 7 percent of the student applicants this year. 

If the company Atland Ventures invested in does well, students can receive a fraction of the return.

Much of the company’s funding comes from donations and investors. The students in the firm create presentations for potential investors, hoping they will provide Atland Ventures funding that it can then invest in startup companies. 

The company is advised by three faculty members who are experienced business people and investors, as well as successful business people in the local area. 

On average, Atland Ventures invests around $30,000 initially in a company, and then small amounts as the company grows, Jessen-Howard said. 

The student-run firm is unique and prepares students for a job market in a field that does not offer a lot of training, Weber said. 

Venture capital investing may not be very present in the Twin Cities because there’s a lack of education and people with an “investing mindset,” he added.  

Weber is also a managing partner for Great North Labs, a venture capital firm that provides insight and often defers potential investments to Atland Ventures.

Students in the company come from a variety of majors and colleges. A person solely needs to be passionate about entrepreneurship to be part of the company, said Lucas Vaz, Atland Ventures’ managing partner and Carlson senior. 

“Undergraduate students are typically not taught how to fundraise your idea, how to build a company from scratch, and I think that by being involved in this role you get the tools necessary to understand how this process works,” Vaz said.

Atland Ventures is unique because it’s creating a new generation of venture capital investors, Weber said. With Atland Ventures’ current and future investments have more potential to grow into a large company in Minnesota, he said.