It’s October 13th. A Sunday.
I stand in a synagogue funeral service, surrounded by older men and women dressed in black. The men and women look solemn but gratified at the same time. They chatter, laugh, tear up and hold hands. Everyone knows one another. I realize that I am the youngest one in the room.
It’s the beginning of the funeral service for Jeff Moskow, the donor and sole founder of the Rebel Venture Fund. He passed away due to health complications caused by cancer he’d suffered for many years. An investor and successful businessman, Jeff had served as a part-time instructor at the UNLV Lee Business School since 2003. In 2012, he donated $500,000 to launch the Rebel Venture Fund (RVF).
As I stood there and listened to his loved ones’ stories, the memories of Jeff began to flood in. I then realized: the students, the invested companies, the fund - and me . . .we have all grown.
I had only met him once before. Two years ago, I sat in a conference room dressed in untailored “professional” attire. I was shaking like a leaf as my first day as an RVF intern began. I was a sophomore, and I knew nothing of venture capital.
The meeting began with a pitch from a startup company. The students attacked financial numbers, questioned the exit strategies, and responded quickly to every fact thrown at them by the entrepreneur.
I do not belong here, I told myself.
Then Jeff calmly stepped onto the podium. “Welcome to the Rebel Venture Fund,” he told us all. “We are happy to have each and every one of you.”
He began by explaining why he created the fund. It was because of a near-death experience – a a health scare in the early 2000s.
“I was on the hospital bed, wondering if this is how I’ll go,” he said. “And I thought to myself: I have accomplished much for my own personal life. And I have lived a long life. But what will I leave behind? What legacy can I leave for the benefit and improvement of others?”
He looked at each and every one of us.
“You are here for a reason. I see a room full of smart, determined, and talented people. I ask that you never feel that you are not supposed to be in this room.”
These words have resonated with me every day since.
I stayed for another meeting. And then another. I began signing up for venture capital and startup competitions. I began studying.
Through my time in RVF, we represented UNLV in national competitions, going up against Ivy League schools in San Francisco. We began to attend angel investment conferences in Silicon Valley, and despite the age gap, we were treated and respected as though no such gap existed, both by senior investors and entrepreneurs. We were encouraged and supported by the fund to attend Startup Weekend, and in three days we created our very own startups. Over the years, we’ve talked to hundreds of entrepreneurs by hosting networking events throughout the Las Vegas Valley.
I’ve changed. I’ve grown. I feel more confident in my actions and can say that I can accept greater challenges because of the confidence that I’ve built, even if those very same challenges seem “impossible”. I would have never gained that experience without the opportunities given by the Rebel Venture Fund.
Jeff’s brother, Irah, ended the funeral service with a quote from Jeff: “Life is merely stories - they range from most ridiculous and hilarious to the utmost sublime.”
If done correctly and justly, our actions may leave legacies. But it is through the utmost support and encouragement given by the advisory board, the entrepreneurs, and people like Jeff who spark that change within us.
The due diligence we commit to and the stakeholders we talk to are more than just an educational experience. We, as a fund - we as a community - are reshaping Las Vegas as a whole. And like Jeff, we plan to continue investing in greater change.