While the Terry College of Business student-run venture capital fund, the Kickstart Fund, helped to launch 70 startup companies over the last five years, there is still room to learn.
Student partners and associates refine the fund’s operation each year and build on the prior year’s success, said Vivian Turriago, a co-managing partner for this year’s Kickstart Fund board.
“Because the fund’s only been operating since 2018, we’re still refining things and making improvements,” said Turriago, who graduates in May with a degree in real estate, a certificate in legal studies and a minor in housing management and policy. “This year we had a big push to bring in more companies from other colleges at UGA. We want to hear pitches from engineering, computer science, from ag, from everywhere around campus. And we saw a bunch of different companies from different areas.”
Turriago, with co-managing partner and UGA advertising student Juliana Nadel, implemented a follow-up grant program for companies that Kickstart invested in before. These grants of up to $10,000 were more selective and given to student-run companies that saw significant growth in sales since their initial grant. In years past, individual grants ranged from $1,000 to $5,000.
At the end of the funding year, which for Kickstart ends in April, the fund invested $62,100 in 21 student-run businesses, ranging from web-based media and planning services to agricultural technology startups to consumer products. The fund’s average grant size was $3,000.
The diversity in types of funded companies is a testament to the diversity of this year’s partners, Turriago said. The team of nine partners and 14 associates was comprised of students from across campus who brought expertise in biology, agriculture, new media and computer science. The fund needed that kind of insight to invest in new types of businesses, she said.
With different types of businesses coming in, one of next year’s goals is to develop metrics the partners can use to fairly evaluate success in various categories. Comparing someone selling a package of socks for $21 and someone selling a piece of new agricultural technology for $40,000 is like comparing apples and oranges, Turriago said.
“One thing we’re working on right now is our metrics for success,” she said. “We haven’t really gotten there yet, but it will be something they initiate next semester.”
The Kickstart Fund was established in 2017 with the financial support of private donors, including a major gift from the SunTrust (now Truist) Foundation. In the years since its creation, Kickstart Fund alumni companies raised more than $7 million in external venture capital funding.
The UGA Kickstart Fund begins screening applications when the fall semester starts in August. For information, visit terry.uga.edu/entrepreneurship.