In awarding seed funds to innovations by their peers, students will invest $1 million for Hampshire College.
Think of it as win-win-win: A $1 million gift to Hampshire College provides seed money for innovative projects and businesses started by current students and recent graduates. Other students gain hands-on investing experience as they make all decisions on which ventures to fund. And if their investments on behalf of Hampshire succeed, as the donor thinks they will, they may provide big dividends for the college.
Michael Vlock, a 1975 Hampshire graduate, gave the $1 million to establish the Seed Fund for Entrepreneurship and Innovation. Divided over five years, it provides $200,000 per year for investment.
Students may get advice and support from staff and faculty, but Vlock emphasizes that the students make all final decisions on what ventures are funded.
“Hampshire will operate as the checkbook for a group of students chosen, by students, to be judges,” Vlock said. “They will entertain venture financing opportunities and negotiate with the entrepreneurs for terms of investment. If those terms are acceptable, they will make the investment, and Hampshire College will own the investment.”
The student-driven fund fits Hampshire’s academic approach. It’s based in creative thinking. It provides hands-on learning opportunities. It enables young entrepreneurs and innovators to turn their ideas into action.
“This will be an extraordinary opportunity and learning experience,” Vlock said. “No students are more entrepreneurial than those who are naturally independent thinkers, and Hampshire has always attracted that kind of person.”
Vlock made the gift to establish the seed fund after meeting with a group of Hampshire students interested in entrepreneurship. He was, in particular, impressed with Zilong Wang, a student from China whose final project at Hampshire focused on establishing an entrepreneurship center on campus. Wang graduated in May, but the student Entrepreneurship Task Force he helped create remains active on campus.
Third-year student Shirish Bhattarai (pictured right) is one of the students involved. “Students will learn how to invest and have the opportunity to launch ventures, which is amazing,” Bhattarai said.
“No students are more entrepreneurial than those who are naturally independent thinkers, and Hampshire has always attracted that kind of person.”