UC Bearcat Ventures inks first investment checks

Student-lead venture chooses two startups

UC Bearcat Ventures is a student-led initiative redefining experiential education in venture capitalism. It introduces students to the intricacies of early-stage startup investments and equips them with the knowledge and skills to make informed financial decisions.

As the Cincinnati Business Courier reported, Bearcat Ventures recently made inaugural investments in two local startups: Tembo, a Postgres developer platform founded by a former University of Cincinnati student, and Band Connect, a connected health platform co-founded by a UC College of Design, Architecture, Art, and Planning alumna.

The two startups have deep ties with UC: Tembo resides in UC’s 1819 Innovation Hub and Band Connect went through the very first cohort of the 1819 Innovation Hub’s Venture Lab program back in 2019.  

Each startup received a $25,000 investment from UC Bearcat Ventures. 

“Our team is excited to continue deepening our relationships with the University of Cincinnati, 1819 and the Cincinnati Innovation District," Ry Walker, founder and CEO of Tembo, said. "This investment is a great step in leveraging UC within the Cincinnati startup ecosystem, providing essential validation and support for early-stage startups.”

Abby McInturf, co-founder of Band Connect, echoed this sentiment.

"As a former Bearcat, I am incredibly honored that Bearcat Ventures has chosen Band Connect for investment," she said. "The support from Bearcat Ventures and the UC community is invaluable, signaling the strength of UC’s entrepreneurial ecosystem.”

The integrity of this program could not have been achieved without a multidisciplinary group of dedicated professionals.

Kate Harmon Assistant vice president, 1819 Innovation Hub, executive director of the UC Center for Entrepreneurship

Under the guidance of the UC Center for Entrepreneurship, the Bearcat Student Venture Fund currently exceeds $1 million of dedicated venture capital. Its mission is strategically investing in promising startups led by UC alums and standout Cincinnati companies, bridging the gap between academic theory and real-world business acumen.

The success of this initiative is a testament to the vision of UC alumnus Rob Manz, whose dream of a student-led venture fund has now come to fruition. This vision and the collaboration of professionals have propelled Bearcat Ventures to this remarkable milestone.

Students gather in a conference room and discuss ideas as one person writes on a board.

Bearcat Ventures identify viable investment opportunities. Photo/Andrew Higley/UC Marketing + Brand

"The integrity of this program could not have been achieved without a multidisciplinary group of dedicated professionals," said Kate Harmon, assistant vice president of the 1819 Innovation Hub and executive director of the UC Center for Entrepreneurship. "We are grateful to those at UC who’ve helped us get to this point, including Marianne Lewis, Ryan Hays, Karl Scheer, Andrew Conley and Joe Maruschak. Bearcat Ventures represents a holistic approach to education that transcends traditional classroom confines and empowers our students with valuable experience to provide capital to fuel the growth of innovative startups."

Since its inception, Bearcat Ventures has attracted students eager to explore venture investing and entrepreneurship. Students take on strategic roles, conduct due diligence, make investment decisions and gain real-world experience.

Jay Kothari, a third-year computer science student and managing director of Bearcat Ventures, highlighted the program’s impact.

“Bearcat Ventures has given me and my peers a unique opportunity to engage with the venture investing industry," Kothari said. "Through training, case studies and mentoring, we are making significant contributions to the startup ecosystem.”

Bearcat Ventures' investment committee, comprising local and national venture fund members with ties to UC, oversees the students’ investment recommendations, ensuring a blend of expert guidance and student-led decision-making.

By empowering the next generation of investors and entrepreneurs, Bearcat Ventures is shaping the future of finance and fostering a dynamic and inclusive startup network in Cincinnati. This innovative student-led venture fund embodies an immersive, hands-on learning approach in the high-stakes investment world.

Featured image at top: UC Bearcat Spirit Band. Photo/Andrew Higley/UC Marketing + Brand

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