The stakes are being raised for Utah Valley University’s business students.
The UVU Wolverine Fund, a student-run venture capital fund using real money for students to make real investments, was created Wednesday after a $25,000 seed donation from Jive Communications.
“They are going to learn about how to invest and what that means to put some money at risk into a business,” said Jefferson Moss, chief operating officer for the UVU Foundation.
The fund will partner with the UVU Entrepreneurship Institute and will be managed by a class starting in January.
Entrepreneurship includes luck, grit and learning how to work smart, and includes conditions that can be difficult to replicate in a classroom, according to Michael Sharp, a co-founder of Jive and the company’s chief product officer.
Managing real money can help bring that experience to light.
“Once you start talking about real money and real opportunities, I think it just sharpens the focus and makes it much more real,” Sharp said.
The hope is other company’s will follow Jive’s lead and donate to growing the fund.
Jive was founded about 10 years ago in Orem and has seen growth similar to what UVU has experienced in that time. The company has employed more than 100 UVU students and Sharp has been involved at UVU for a couple of years. Its founders are from Utah County and still live in the area.
Sharp said Jive is now able to give back to the community with donations like this through the Jive Foundation.
The UVU Wolverine Fund will be similar to the Cougar Capital program at Brigham Young University in Provo, which Matt Peterson, a co-founder of Jive and the company’s chief marketing officer, was a part of as a student.
Peterson said being a part of the program was a tremendous learning opportunity.
“Cougar Capital was the greatest experience of my MBA program,” he said.
Peterson said venture capital is critical for technology startups, but it can be a tough industry to break into. The aim is for the UVU Wolverine Fund to give students that experience.
Moss said students have been inquiring about venture capital opportunities at UVU for some time.
“I was getting asked this by students even before I came here,” he said.