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Finding the bets that will pay off

Airbnb, Instagram, Uber, Pinterest — these were all once small startup companies looking for investors’ money to grow. Then smart venture capitalists came along, recognized their great ideas and catapulted the companies to fame and fortune.

Students in the Venture Assessment course in UNB’s faculty of management now have an opportunity to pick winners too, thanks to the recently established Fraser Student Venture Fund. UNB management graduate Chuck Fraser (BBA'68), a retired wealth manager, donated $320,000 to enable students to research, analyze and invest in startups, fostering the entrepreneurial spirit in the faculty. He has continued to support this fund; with another generous gift of $100,000 in December 2022 the fund is nearing the $1M mark.

UNB startups get priority

Building on the track record of the faculty’s award-winning Student Investment Fund, which trains students to invest in big public companies, the Fraser Fund has a mandate to invest in startup companies with a connection to the university. Startups with UNB alumni on their management teams have been invited to apply for investments of up to $25,000.

The students initially pitched 3D Planeta to the Fraser Fund investment committee. 3D Planeta supplies three-dimensional maps to search and rescue crews, first responders and other groups that need precise knowledge of an area’s terrain. The technology, which was developed at UNB, provides accuracy right down to the individual tree. They have since also pitched TrojAI, Picketa Systems and BioHuntress Therapeutics.

Potential is key

Whether 3D Planeta becomes the world’s next big thing remains to be seen. But it’s a sure bet the students who identified the company’s potential have moved it that much closer to profitability. And the student venture capitalists have learned a lot about the risks and rewards of entrepreneurship.