Five computing students selected to join Husker Venture Fund

The new Husker Venture Fund associates.
The new Husker Venture Fund associates.

The Husker Venture Fund at the University of Nebraska–Lincoln has selected 23 students—including 5 computing majors—to join the student-led program as associates. The fund, built by alumni and university supporters, offers hands-on investment experience to students of any major while providing funding to early-stage startups in Nebraska.

“In Nebraska, all investing in early-stage startups basically happens through friends and family, so if you didn’t have that network, your ability to successfully start a company is incredibly challenging,” said Sam Nelson, faculty adviser for the fund, director of the Center for Entrepreneurship and associate professor of practice in management. “The Husker Venture Fund offers people a shot they didn’t have before, which could be transformational for the state. It presents a win-win situation for our students and community. These 20-plus students get invaluable real-world experience that gives them access to participate in venture capital opportunities.”

The students first applied to and participated in an eight-week Venture Boot Camp, in which they learned the terminology and principles of venture capital through projects, quizzes and lectures by guest speakers. The boot camp culminated with a project that split students into teams to conduct due diligence on a company to simulate the fund’s process of selecting new investments. Based on their participation and performance, 23 participants were selected to join the Husker Venture Fund.

“Throughout the boot camp, members gained insights from the experiences shared by the fund’s managing directors and Jimmy Whebbe, our director of new member education,” said Ateev Bhandari, a senior accounting and business administration major from Amritsar, India, who is one of the fund’s three managing directors. “HVF is unique in that its operations are completely student-led. This means that everything — from screening companies and completing due diligence to voting on investments — is entirely done by students. Our boot camp benefits from a similar structure, making room for intentional learning and hands-on experience.”

The Husker Venture Fund’s membership structure resembles a typical venture capital fund, with students starting as general members and able to advance to associates, senior associates and managing directors. Beyond investing more than $100,000 in Nebraska businesses this year, the fund’s managing directors also prioritized advancing diversity and inclusion in the venture capital industry.

“Venture capital is well-known for its exclusivity and closed doors, and we want to change that,” said Maria Heyen, a senior international business and Clifton Builders management major from Astoria, Oregon, and managing director of the fund. “This group of new associates brings together students from different disciplines and backgrounds. When I joined HVF last fall, I was one of two women. Being a woman interested in finance, I know this will not be the last time I am outnumbered, but I’m proud to say that this second class of associates is composed of 20% women and 21% study outside the College of Business. We are intentionally bringing in students who have typically been excluded from the world of venture capital.”

Learn more about the Husker Venture Fund.

The fund’s 2022-23 associates, listed alphabetically by hometown with their year in school and major(s), are:

• Charlie Trofholz, freshman, finance
• Michael Day, junior, accounting and finance
• Amir Tarkian, freshman, computer science and physics
• Eric Allbery, senior, mechanical engineering
• Nolan Cubrich, freshman, business administration
• Landen Fogle, freshman, computer science
• Will Manhart, junior, finance
• Reese Munson, junior, economics
• Connor Wickless, junior, finance; Edwin Bahena-Flores, senior, finance
• Kirk Bramwell, freshman, computer science
• Sam Pribyl, junior, economics and supply chain management

Crystal Lake, Illinois:
• Will Anderson, junior, software engineering
Courtland, Kansas:
• Carolina Barraza, freshman, accounting and marketing
Leawood, Kansas:
• Ike McLey, sophomore, finance
Overland Park, Kansas:
• Colby Marsden, junior, finance
Bloomington, Minnesota:
• Gretchen Holland, freshman, business and law, and finance
St. Paul, Minnesota:
• Jack Britten, junior, accounting
Lake Winnebago, Missouri:
• Sophie Brendel, senior, business and law
Lee’s Summit, Missouri:
• Garrett Smith, sophomore, accounting and Clifton Builders management
Mahwah, New Jersey:
• Gillian Burns, junior, finance
Sioux Falls, South Dakota:
• Jonathan Skelton, freshman, computer science and mathematics
Salvador, Brazil:
• Thiago Pereira, junior, business administration

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