Associates with the Saint Mary’s University Venture-Grade fund made their first investment on Tuesday, and they’re just getting started.
“Students don’t just learn on paper,” says John Yu, 23. “Students learn by doing.”
Yu, along with others taking part in the university’s student-raised venture capital investment, gathered at Volta Labs’ new offices inside the Maritime Centre in Halifax where the $15,000 investment was announced.
The recipient of the cash is a Halifax startup company called Trip Ninja which rearranges international travel plans for people who want to visit multiple cities, finding the cheapest flights and thus finding savings other travel planners can’t.
“Andres certainly is creating a new market. This is changing the customers’ paying behaviour in buying flight tickets,” says Yu, speaking about Trip Advisor CEO and co-creator Andres Collart.
Discerning between the different companies hoping for investment is a big part of the practical experience gained through the Venture Grade Fund. Taking everything that they have learned in class, participating students must then put it to use in the real world, with real money and real businesses.
“We do research on the company and compare it to different competitors in the industry. We look at the market-fit, and whether their business model is saleable or not,” says Emma Scott who is in her 5th year of an undergrad in entrepreneurship at Saint Mary’s. “And we look at the actual team members of the team.”
“People make things happen. An idea is just an idea, but you have to find people who can execute, and we believe Andres can do so, as well as his team.”
Collart already has a good track record. Last November he pitched Trip Ninja at a Volta Cohort event and won his team a $25,000 investment as part of a fund started by Volta Labs, Innovacorp and BDC Capital. He and his team have since been working out of Volta Labs.
“It was a great experience having 30-plus MBA students in a top tier program known for business and entrepreneurship reviewing our business,” said Collart during the presentation which was attended by many of those students.
Trip Ninja doesn’t sell tickets, instead they licence their technology to travel agencies. Before the year is over Collart says that Trip Ninja will be powering the ticket sales of “a few thousand” people every month.
As for the young associates of the venture grade fund, they have built up their funds to $200,000 since 2016 when the fund was launched and are eager to get in on the ground floor of another company soon.