Dakota Venture Group, located on the UND campus in the Center for Innovation, is a venture capital firm that provides student members with hands-on investment training. He’ll see Kranz, its chairman, graduate this month, with White taking a leadership role. The two share similar feelings about their involvement in the investment group.
“The experience is by far the most beneficial experience while in college, for the simple fact that we operate like a real business,” said Kranz, a graduate in economics and accounting, who plans to attend a faculty of right after graduation. He added that he could not gain this experience in a classroom.
White, a sophomore data science student, quickly agreed.
“Like him, I would say it was the best experience I had in college,” he said.
Launched in 2006 by retired venture capitalist Bart Holaday and his wife, Lynn, as an educational opportunity for UND students, DVG has grown over the years, both in terms of investment and membership. There are, according to Kranz, around 160 alumni who participated in the group. Today, the group has about twenty members who oversee nearly $ 2 million between two investment funds. DVG was the first student-led venture capital group in the United States, although others have sprung up in the country and around the world since then.
According to White, over the past two months, DVG has reviewed between five and 12 business plans per week.
The most recent investment was in an Iowa-based healthcare technology software company called OmniLife.
“They focus specifically on transferring information regarding organ donation,” Kranz said.
Carrying out investment work is not without risk, but Kranz said DVG pays for itself on its investments, even if it takes time.
“It’s not a constant flow of feedback, obviously,” he said. “We hope to have companies in our portfolio at this time when we want them to build their value. We want to help them so that when the time is right to acquire them, or, if they make enough money to host some form of liquidity event for investors, their value is high enough that we make a comeback. . “
Yet many start-ups fail, and that’s part of DVG’s educational experience – to conduct due diligence research, as well as investor relations and portfolio management.
“We would expect roughly 80% of the businesses presented to us to fail outright,” White said. “The goal is to really minimize the number of failures we have in our portfolio and maximize our winners. So really double the number of companies that we see that have a chance to change the industry. “
DVG operates two funds, the Innovation Fund, a not-for-profit fund made up of the Evergreen Fund, which means that returns on investments are constantly fed back into the fund. Some of the fund companies include Edgewood Real Estate Investment Trust, based in Fargo, and Hilltopper Electric Bike Company, based in Seattle, Washington.
The other fund, the Harvest Fund, is for profit and focuses more on investing in Upper Midwestern companies, such as POPS! Diabetes Care in Minneapolis.
“They are completely changing the way people manage their diabetes,” Kranz said. “They have some pretty cool technology going on.”
Compensation for involvement in DVG comes in the form of an educational experience as opposed to financial compensation, a core value of the group.
“The experience is truly invaluable, when you think about it,” Kranz said.