Innovation

This groundbreaking VC fund is 50% women and staffed by students

By Oliver Smith 19 October 2017
Campus Capital co-founders Samantha Deakin Hill and Michael Howe.
Summary

Far from your typical VC.

Campus Capital is nothing like your usual venture capital fund.

Forget old white men with judgmental gazes – think diverse 20-somethings, fresh-faced and bushy-tailed, on the hunt for the ‘next big thing’.

The brainchild of Michael Howe and Samantha Deakin Hill, Campus Capital is based across Manchester, Sheffield and now Lancaster Universities where it operates as part-investment fund, part-student society.

“It started because we spotted the real problem with early stage venture capital in the north of England,” Hill told The Memo. “And entrepreneurs who do need to raise that kind of capital often move away, so there’s no one left to mentor the next generation.”

Enter Campus Capital, which aims to solve both problems by investing between £50k and £200k in early-stage companies across the north of England, while offering a unique experiential learning programme for students who part-run the firm.

Student VCs

Yes, working alongside Howe, Hill and their team, students embark on a journey to become ‘Student Venture Capitalists’.

“To learn what it’s like to be a venture capitalist, they need to actually be engaging in venture capital activity, as an investor,” explains Hill.

Together they’re taught the basics of venture capital, from why a fund is structured the way it is to how investment decisions are made.

Then when a real startup applies to Campus Capital for funding, the application doesn’t go to Howe or Hill’s inbox, but to the team of students.

“They’re completely autonomous, they kind of have to be in order to get the full experience,” says Hill, adding that her team are there to support if needed.

It’s the students’ job to pick through the startup’s pitch deck, analyse the opportunity, even meet up with the founder to decide whether Campus Capital should pursue an investment.

A new generation

It’s a student society like no other, and it’s attracting a wholly different set of students than you might expect.

“Some are aspiring investors and entrepreneurs, others are just fans of technology and keen to learn more,” says Hill.

What’s most surprising is the breadth of diversity that the society is attracting, as opposed to what’s found in traditional venture capital.

“Something like 7% of traditional VC decision-makers are female, which is ridiculous,” says Hill.

“Last year over 50% of Campus Capital students were women and the students are extremely ethnically diverse across all the universities we operate.”

Hill puts it down to the diversity of the student populations in Manchester, Sheffield and Lancaster where they operate, but only goes to highlight the failings of traditional VCs across the country.

“We know from research that diverse teams work better, with different viewpoints and more interesting conversations, it’s so important,” says Hill.

While she admits Campus Capital wasn’t created with the intention of solving VC’s diversity crisis, but it might just be creating a new generation of diverse VCs anyway.

This summer four of Campus Capital’s students secured internships at VC funds as a direct result of being part of the society.

Next summer Hill’s aiming to beat that.