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Spring/Summer 2021

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Alumnus enables students to invest in startups

ALUMNI NEWS MAGAZINE | Spring/Summer 2021

UNB students are learning firsthand the importance of venture capital investments to small businesses and the wider economy – and they’re doing it by investing real money in real startups. 

The Fraser Student Venture Fund, established in 2019, allows students in the faculty of management’s venture assessment course to research and analyze startups, and invest up to $50,000 in startup businesses with a UNB connection.  

Like other venture capital funds, the Fraser Student Venture Fund seeks to earn returns on its investments, so the fund can grow and become self sustaining. 

UNB alumnus and retired wealth manager Charles (Chuck) Fraser (BBA’68), whose half-million-dollar gift makes the program possible, was impressed by the entrepreneurial spirit at his alma mater. “I see this fund eventually helping UNB play a more supportive role in the province’s economic growth,” he says. “It is also my hope that this fund inspires others to support the faculty and its students.” Already, other alumni have begun to step forward with support of the fund. 

Venture assessment students follow a rigorous process in selecting businesses to support, including receiving pitches from eligible companies, interviewing CEOs, and working alongside co-investors at the New Brunswick Innovation Foundation to share due diligence.  

To date, the students have funded two New Brunswick startps. In the first round of funding, in December 2019, Fredericton-based 3D Planeta Inc.( received support from the fund. 3D Planeta provides high-fidelity 3D images, created by fusing images from air, space, and underwater sources and layering these images with existing geographic data. The result is an actual 3D image created in near-real time. 

In December 2020, the class invested in Saint John’s TrojAI IncTrojAI develops solutions to protect artificial intelligence platforms from adversarial attacks, such as poisoning or embedded Trojan and evasion attacks. Focused on computer vision platforms, the techniques developed by TrojAI protect AI platforms from malicious attacks in multiple ways. 

Venture assessment student Fazley Shabab Chowdhury (MBA’21) was involved in the TrojAI investment and says the process has inspired him to become a venture capital and private equity investor.  

“It cannot be better than this. You only expect to get this type of experience working for an actual venture capital firm.”

“It was tense knowing this is a real company and you’re working on real numbers that can make a significant difference in the return potential to the fund. The outcome can be huge on the upside and things can go south on the downside,” says Fazley, adding that the experience was invaluable. “It cannot be better than this. You only expect to get this type of experience working for an actual venture capital firm.”