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The Fund

Established in 2021, the Bluestone Seed Fund is a donor-supported fund that invests in early-stage JMU-affiliated start-ups through a competitive pitch process. This gives JMU student founders real-world entrepreneurial experience, actionable feedback on their pitches and mentoring and coaching opportunities from experts. JMU alumni founders who have graduated within the last five years are also eligible. 

The BSF provides hands-on learning opportunities for JMU students in two ways:
  1. Student Founders gain real-world entrepreneurial experience by pitching to the investment committee for seed funding, gain actionable feedback on their pitches, and mentoring/coaching opportunities from experts.
  2. Student Venture Associates (SVAs) recruit and screen initial applicants (deal flow), conduct due diligence, observe investor pitches and manage portfolio companies.
How do I apply?
Founders
  1. At least one founder for your business must be a current JMU student or 2021 graduate 
  2. Your business must be a for-profit company  
  3. Your business must be a legal entity  (LLC, C-corp, etc.) and have an EIN with a business bank account 

If you and your business meet these criteria, please fill out the application here

SVAs
  1. You must be a current JMU undergraduate or graduate student.
  2. You must be interested in learning about and experiencing venture investing
  3. You must commit to acting as SVA for two semesters (two cycles of investment)

Qualified students may apply in the fall. 

Founders

The Investment Committee will evaluate the start-ups using the following criteria; however, the investment decision will be based on discussions during deliberations. 

  1. Execution risk – how competent is your management team? Do you have industry expertise? Do you have a strong team of advisors/mentors?  
  2. Market risk – What is the market size? Is there room for growth? Who are the competitors and how do you differentiate? Do you have any revenue to date? What is the product-market fit?  
  3. Technology risk – Do you have a working MVP or working prototype? How scalable is your business? Is it cutting edge or obsolete? 
  4. Capital risk – Will you be able to raise additional funds if needed?  
  5. Regulatory risk – Are there regulatory or policy issues in place that could hold you back? 
  6. Viability – How ready to succeed, scale, grow, exit are you? 

If you are selected as a finalist for the BSF, the GCFE will provide a template for your pitch deck. We will also provide you with a 1-2 hour coaching session on your pitch. But here are a few guidelines: 

A good pitch presentation will show both passion and conviction for your business. The “script” of your presentation should be well thought out, prepared and memorized. Avoid filler words like “like”, “umm” and “so”. It’s actually better to have a few seconds of silence to collect your thoughts on what you’re going to say next than to fill in with something un-prepared. 

As much as possible, look out at the audience and not your own slides. Make eye contact! Engage with your audience in both your voice and your storytelling. 

Dress is business professional: suits and ties for masculine clothes. Professional length skirts/dresses, slacks with blouses for feminine clothes. 

The GCFE will provide a template for the slides you should prepare. Customize those slides with your logo and branding colors to keep them consistent. 

A good pitch will tell a good story, while also explaining why your business will succeed and make money. By the end of your pitch, everyone should understand exactly what your business does, how it does it, how much money you have the potential to make and why it's important.  

Pitches most often start with the Problem Statement then will go on to explain how your business will solve these problems for your customers, or your Value Proposition. Market size, market share, the potential for market growth, traction and an overview of your pro forma are also crucial to include. Make sure to include information about your competitors and how you differ from them. Tell the investors about your team and your credibility (Competitive Advantage). Be sure to include your use of funds.  

Don’t forget to stick the landing and end with something memorable. And don’t forget your contact info! 

Founders selected as finalists will prepare a 10-minute investor pitch to be presented to the Investment Committee (IC) and then the IC will conduct 15-20-minutes of Q&A. Founders are asked to reserve the 6-9pm time period. A schedule will be given when finalists are announced. Once you have presented, you may leave. Similarly, if you present later in the evening, you don’t need to arrive at the beginning of the event.  

We will schedule time for you in the space the week of the Pitch Event. 

More details will be given as needed.

The GCFE is here to help! Reach out to gcfe@jmu.edu and we’ll be more than happy to work with you on your pitch or your application.

Your time commitment will vary depending on the week of the cycle. When the SVA is reviewing the Founders’ submissions and the week of the Pitch Event, your time commitment will be more. However, every day you’re on campus you are an SVA! Keep your ears open and be ready to share investment opportunities for Founders. 

Student Venture Associate

The staff of the Gilliam Center for Entrepreneurship will select 5-7 students and up to two alternates. Recruitment begins at the beginning of fall semester and the position will last for the entire academic year. 

An ideal Student Venture Associate will not only be interested in the inner-workings of venture investments but also be a good student, a good team collaborator and good communicator. SVAs should be professional, responsible, discrete, prompt and able to get work done in a timely manner.

Staff from the Gilliam Center for Entrepreneurship will work to ensure we have a diverse set of SVAs not only in gender and race, but also class years and majors.

Being chosen as an SVA will give you first-hand access to the venture investing process. You’ll have hands-on experience with deal flow, and have front row access to the inner-workings of how venture capitalists make their decisions - and maybe even be a part of that conversation! In addition to helping fellow Dukes grow their business, you’ll have an awesome experience to put on your resume. (see next question!)

Upon successful completion of the two-semester commitment, you can add “Student Venture Associate, Bluestone Seed Fund 20xx-20xx. Generate deal flow, pre-screen applications, listen to investor pitches and Q&A, participate in due diligence, contribute to investment decision-making, review progress reports, communicate with investor/donors and manage the portfolio of Bluestone Seed Fund Ventures.”  

Your time commitment will vary depending on the week of the cycle. When the SVA is reviewing the Founders’ submissions and the week of the Pitch Event, your time commitment will be more. However, every day you’re on campus you are an SVA! Keep your ears open and be ready to share investment opportunities for Founders. 

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