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University of Michigan’s Social Venture Fund Announces Investment in Querium

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October 18-20, 2023 / Tucson, AZ
The annual summit for research institution gap fund and accelerator programs, including proof of concept programs, startup accelerators, and university venture funds

The Story

The Social Venture Fund, a student-led venture fund within theSamuel Zell & Robert H. Lurie Institute for Entrepreneurial Studies at the University of Michigan’s Stephen M. Ross School of Business, today announced that it has participated in the early-stage bridge round for Austin, Texas.-based Querium, an edtech company that uses artificial intelligence to provide students with step-by-step coaching for math, science and engineering. The Social Venture Fund contributed $50,000 towards a total $720,000 convertible note round and was one of approximately 10 investors.

The Social Venture Fund, the nation’s first student-led impact investing fund, invests in and supports innovative, for-profit companies that place social and environmental impact at the heart of their business model. The Fund is managed by a team of approximately 40 MBA and BBA students – many of whom are pursuing dual-degrees with education, environment, health, law and public policy – along with faculty advisor Uday Rajan, the Chair of the Finance Department at the Ross School of Business. The Fund focuses its investments in four key industry verticals: education, healthcare, food systems and environment and urban revitalization.

“As an institution whose mission it is to improve lives through learning, we understand the potential Querium has to change the world through education,” said Stewart Thornhill, executive director of the Zell Lurie Institute, which houses the Social Venture Fund. “The Social Venture Fund has done an excellent job of selecting a company with a bright future and the capacity to expand its place in the market.”

Querium, the Fund’s third direct investment in the education space, helps teens and adult learners master critical STEM skills at their own pace. Recently named by Fast Company as one of “The Most Innovative Companies of 2016: Education,” Querium’s unique Virtual Tutor evaluates student work step-by-step to provide instant feedback and assist in the development of cognitive skills. Students receive real-time grading and coaching that mimic a live tutoring experience through smartphones and tablets as well as PCs, opening up access for students who may not have home computers. Querium collects 20 pieces of data including types of errors made from every step a student enters, enabling teachers to understand exactly where and why students make mistakes so that they may better tailor their lesson plans to provide differentiated instruction. Ultimately, Querium drives significant social impact by improving high school test scores and helping community college students avoid exceptionally costly and burdensome remedial STEM courses.

A team of seven students, led by Wiles Kase, MBA/MS ’18, sourced the deal and conducted in-depth due diligence on the company. The Fund’s rigorous deal sourcing process began with consideration of applications for funding from more than 150 companies; companies selected for due diligence then participated in the fund’s months-long process, which included analysis of their products’ effectiveness, markets, financials and social impact. “Leading a team of talented, experienced peers was an invaluable learning opportunity; the due diligence team challenged my analytical assumptions and forced me to evolve as a leader, and I emerged stronger for it,” said Kase. “I also learned what it takes to fully understand every inch of a young company—what questions require answers, what questions can’t be answered and where an investor can and cannot work with ambiguity.”

The team determined Querium would be a strong investment for the Fund due to the company’s impressive technology, dynamic management team, and potential to improve test scores and minimize the burden of remedial STEM coursework. “Founder Kent Fuka and his team bring an impressive more than 40 years of experience in the education space, disruptive energy to challenge traditional STEM education, and a passion to work with the students on Michigan’s Social Venture Fund. Querium is an ideal investment for the Fund,” said Aysha Malik, MBA ’17, part of the due diligence team.

“Given Social Venture Fund’s mission, this investment is a strong validation of the work Querium is doing to help students hit their STEM education milestones and start college on the right foot,” said Kent Fuka, founder and CEO, Querium. “We’re proud to have been selected for investment and are looking forward to working with the Social Venture Fund team and helping more students find success as we grow our company.”

Source: University of Michigan’s Social Venture Fund Announces Investment in Querium

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