About the Student Led Venture Fund

Rice recently launched the Rice Student Led Venture Fund, through which Rice students will have the opportunity to learn about early stage investment evaluation and make investments in promising young startups. The Student Venture Fund originated from a generous $2M gift, and it provides a unique learning experience for Rice students, both graduate and undergraduates, to learn about the venture capital industry and practice evaluating early-stage startups for investment.

The experience is comprised of a two-course curriculum, with the first laying the groundwork of how early-stage investing works, and the second providing the students an opportunity to hone their skills by evaluating live deals and making a recommendation back to an investment committee.



This class is perfect for those seeking to understand what funding sources may be best for their venture or those interested in a career in venture financing. You’ll understand the differences between angel funding, venture capital, crowd funding, and accelerators. In addition to quantitative analysis, this class hosts regular guest speakers who share about their experiences in the field.

This course is a pre-requisite for BUSI 465: Student Venture Fund: Evaluating Startup Investment Opportunities.



Students will identify, screen, and evaluate startups for investment by the Rice venture capital fund. Through this highly experiential course, students will learn tools for rigorously evaluating startup ventures for investment, valuing early stage companies, and structuring investments. Note: This class is ideal for those interested in entrepreneurship and financing startup ventures.

Prerequisite: MGMP 626 (MBA) or BUSI 461 (Undergraduate) Financing the Startup Venture. Application required.

Faculty Profiles

Kyle Judah, Executive Director of Liu Idea Lab for Innovation & Entrepreneurship at Rice University: Kyle Judah is the Executive Director at Lilie, where he also teaches Financing the Startup Venture. Kyle comes to us from The University of Colorado Boulder, where he built and ran the Entrepreneurship Program for the College of Engineering and Applied Science.

Kyle has an abundance of entrepreneurship experience: from co-founding RecoVend (a budgeting software for educational institutions), providing consulting works for large companies engaging in startup ecosystems, to revamping MIT’s Corporate Engagement Program.

Mark Poag, Co-Founder and Managing Director of Fitz Gate Ventures: Mark brings to Fitz Gate Ventures 19+ years of experience as an experienced entrepreneur and executive with a proven track record of successfully growing companies from the ground up to mature industry leadership. Prior to Fitz Gate Mark was the head of Product, Marketing, Legal and Alliances at Datacert, Inc., an enterprise software company (sold 2014) and Founder and CEO of Digicontract, Inc., a SaaS company (sold 2001).

Mark received an A.B. from Princeton University in 1993 and a JD and MBA with honors from Tulane University in 1997. Mark also leads a seminar series on venture capital at Princeton University’s Graduate School and is currently President of the Princeton Alumni Association of Houston and Co-Chair of the Alumni Schools Committee of Houston. Mark previously served as a member of the Executive Committee of the Alumni Council of Princeton University.

Jim Cohen, Co-Founder and Managing Director of Fitz Gate Ventures:  Prior to co-founding Fitz Gate, Jim was the head of Corp Dev and M&A for a $1bb+ NYSE listed company, a partner in a private equity fund (Main Street Capital), a corporate lawyer (Simpson Thacher in NY and London; Baker Botts in Houston) and an investment banker (Morgan Stanley in NY). Jim is a member of the Executive Committee of the Alumni Council of Princeton University, the worldwide governing body for Princeton University alumni.

Jim also co-leads a seminar series on venture capital for Princeton University graduate students and is a Lecturer at Rice University on Venture Capital Finance. Jim is an honors graduate of Princeton University and received his law degree from New York University School of Law.

Former Investments

Investment Committee Volunteers

The investment committee, comprised of alumni and friends of Rice University, oversees the fund. The investment committee members hear presentations from the students on their top selections for investment, and make the final decisions about whether the fund will commit capital. It is a great opportunity for our students to get valuable feedback and guidance from industry leaders.  Thanks to the many supporters:

Thank you to our sponsors

  • Glenn Youngkin
  • Robert Tudor
  • Brian Patterson
  • William Sick
  • David Klein
  • The LG Family Fund
  • The Reynolds and Reynolds Company
  • Arthur and Carlyse Ciocca Charitable Foundation


  • Giles O’Malley Foundation
  • The Jay and Maxann Collins Fund
  • Jack Gill
  • Larry Lawson
  • Huff Family Foundation
  • The Eric J. Pulaski Fund at Greater Houston Community Foundation
  • George McLendon