If it’s 9 p.m. on a Friday in Las Vegas, chances are you’ll find a couple of college students playing pool down the street from UNLV. The meetups for UNLV’s Rebel Venture Fund (RVF) happen at Office Bar & Naked City Pizza. The late night and relaxed state of students signify the end of yet another exam-heavy week.
RVF is UNLV’s student-led venture capital fund, operated through the Lee Business School. We invest in companies in Southern Nevada, provide support for the community and our portfolio companies, and give students real-world venture capital experiences.
Our bi-weekly meetings — 5:30 p.m. in Beam Hall — start with a joke: “We’ll end the meeting at 7 p.m.” We actually end at 8, then hastily carpool on over for a night of cheap drinks, messy pizza, and heated games of darts and billiards. It’s a college night alright, but there's something different about our group.
You’ll hear Beth Wi, a dual MBA and master's in hotel administration student, explain how her TEDTalk on hospitality robotics went the other night. Entrepreneurship major Blake Pride-Zorn will discuss our latest collaborations with Black Fire Innovation, an initiative to spur innovation in the hospitality industry, as well as updates about his own business, Triora Technologies. And a half dozen members, including Executive Director Matthew Fritz, will debate, laugh, and ponder over the startups they’d met during a conference trip to Silicon Valley.
Classes aren’t the primary topic of conversation. No, we’re talking business.
Supported by a gift from late UNLV professor Jeff Moskow, RVF was designed to give students firsthand experience in investing and engaging with the entrepreneurial community in Las Vegas. The fund attracts a diverse array of college students because it’s open to all majors. Any UNLV student can join. Possibilities for involvement may include conducting due diligence on a startup, participating in active meetings with entrepreneurs, or managing the fund’s finances.
Those who approach our venture capital fund as entrepreneurs benefit from the RVF’s strong connections and resources. RVF can secure average investments of $20,000 to $50,000. The university-based fund also offers a multitude of various research materials, advisement, and of course, access to a target market of over 30,000 college students. Although highly focused on startups in Las Vegas, RVF often reviews companies beyond Nevada.
Our initiatives as students — and as investors — are clear: Find, discuss, and capitalize on anything that may spark value, whether that is profitable companies to invest in or entrepreneurs to potentially secure a job with.
“Our community has a huge diversity of business and technology backgrounds represented by its residents, old and young,” said RVF board member and investor Bill Botts. “If we can tap this talent we can truly become an entrepreneurial and startup community”.
The accompanying series of articles will dive deeper into the RVF to show how its existence plays a huge role in the advancement of academic, venture capital, and entrepreneurial pursuits of UNLV students. Through the eyes of an active member, an invested startup company, an investor, a board member, and the fund’s director himself, we’ll delve into the opportunities, challenges, and possibly prosperous returns that every stakeholder within RVF strives for.