StudVent is working on the launch of a new program called the “StudVent Loans Program”. The mission of this program is to reduce the burden of debt on student-entrepreneurs, and also recent graduates who are burdened with student loans but intend on starting their own businesses.
Upon launch of the StudVent Loan program, current student-entrepreneurs who are borrowing funds to pay for university or college studies will be able to register and provide information on their student loan burden and future needs. Also, former students who current have loans but wish to start their own companies will be able to register as well.
In the first stage of the StudVent Loand program, we will be matching student applicants with “StudVent Loan Angels” who generously give money to help entrepreneurs ease the burden of their debt. Angels may wish to remain anonymous, or they have the option of announcing their philanthropy.
Thus we are seeking interested high net worth individuals, foundations, corporations and other organizations that would like to give back to the entrepreneurial community and help free a current student entrepreneur, or an x-student entrepreneur from the burdens of debt. We are collecting interest and will be posting a registration form. Loan Angels will remain anonymous until they wish to make their activities public.
Student debt is now at least 1.5 trillion in the USA alone. A recent article published by Utah Business entitled “Student Debt is Stunting Entrepreneurship” drove home the point of how the average USA graduate is $37,000 in debt. Also, it could be a reason why new business starts are down across the USA. Furthermore, it seems that while 60% of young people want to start their own businesses someday, only 2% of them are self-employed. See https://www.utahbusiness.com/student-debt/. The Harvard Business Review also had a recent article entitled “Student Debt Is Stopping U.S. Millennials from Becoming Entrepreneurs”. Mentioned is the fact that in 1996, 35% of startups were launched by young people, and by 2014 that figure was down to 18 percent.
The authors argue:
“To sustain a growing and diverse set of entrepreneurs and innovators, new sources of funding will need to become available. Today, most of the available investment capital ends up in the hands of a very small percentage of new ventures and initiatives. In the field of science and research, particularly, funding is typically reserved for PhDs that have the full backing and support of major institutions and the ecosystems they provide.
But, as observed by Patrick Collison of Stripe and economist Russ Roberts, many of the world’s most impactful contributions to science came from people that made their discoveries outside of this normal structure. Think of Nikola Tesla toiling away at his personal lab, or Albert Einstein sneaking away from his responsibilities as a patent clerk. Making funding available to a wider group of people that follow less traditional paths is critical for innovation”
Furthermore, there is more than just anectdotal talk on the issue. the Center for American Entrepreneurship has published academic work that proves the the notion that student debt is adversely affecting entrepreneurship. Professors such as Ethan Mollick from the Wharton Business School have researched the issue. Read more here:
Another academic paper has confirmed the same. Authors Karthik Krishnan and Pinshuo Wang found that “student debt inhibits entrepreneurship by exacerbating the effect of negative business outcomes on the individual” in their published work “The Cost of Financing Education: Can Student Debt Hinder Entrepreneurship?” in Management Finance. The paper concludes
“Student loans can impose a significant cost on the undertaking of risky endeavors such as starting up businesses. Using data from the Survey of Consumer Finances (SCF), we find evidence supportive of recent policy decisions to reduce the burden of student debt to promote entrepreneurship. Student debt is negatively related to the propensity to start a firm. Further, student debt is also negatively related to the propensity of starting ventures that are large. We demonstrate the causal effect of student loans of entrepreneurship using two natural experiments—the reclassification of student debt as nondischargeable through personal bankruptcy (by the 1998 Higher Education Amendments) and the Higher Education Amendments of 1992, which made federal Stafford loans more widely available. Entrepreneurs with more student debt are more likely to fall behind on their student debt payments, and this relation is mitigated by the extent of success of the venture. The negative relation between student debt and entrepreneurship is stronger for households in lower income or asset quintiles. Our evidence indicates that student debt may inhibit entrepreneurship by exacerbating the effect of negative business outcomes on the individual. Our results also suggest that student loans decrease the incidence of successful ventures. Given the significant level of student loans outstanding (more than $1 trillion) and the potentially significant impact on entrepreneurship, our results shine some light on an important phenomenon. Policy makers have shown interest in how start-up activity by Krishnan and Wang: Can Student Debt Hinder Entrepreneurship? 30 Management Science, Articles in Advance, pp. 1–33, © 2018 INFORMS recent graduates is affected by student debt. Ours is one of the first studies to provide empirical evidence regarding these costs.”
You can find the entire paper here: https://pubsonline.informs.org/doi/pdf/10.1287/mnsc.2017.2995.
The team at StudVent wanted to do something about the student loan crises. The long term solutions are political in nature, but in the short term, we believe the best way to address this issue is to help entrepreneurs pay down their loans through grants, be they individual or institutional. However we couldn’t find any programs out there targeted to student entrepreneurs or former student entrepreneurs, besides one at Cornell University (see below). Therefore we are embarking on our own initiative and are hoping to get traction on what we believe is a very good cause. There are other loan reimbursement programs out there, and some are foundation-based. Sectors such as medical, teaching and military seem to have the most. For more on this see the article below:
11 Grants to Pay Off Student Loans Faster
We were inspired to start this initiative by the late Professor David BenDaniel of Cornell University’s SC Johnson Graduate School of Business, who convinced Jonas Weil ’58, MBA ’59, a Cornell alumnus and successfully exited entrepreneur, to endow the Jonas Weil Fellowship. This Fellowship, at the time the only one like it in the USA, funded recent MBA graduates with up to $5000 per year to help them pay down their student debt. The founder of Studvent, Michael Clouser, was in fact a recipient of the Weil Fellowship as he started a company just after graduating with his MBA from Cornell in Silicon Valley. You can read more about the Jonas Weil and the founding of the fellowship in the article from Ezra.
Also, the Academic Entrepreneur published a blog post about the fellowship here: https://academicentrepreneur.wordpress.com/2014/05/09/model-programme-for-cash-strapped-entrepreneurial-students-jonas-weil-fellowship/
StudVent may establish a foundation in order to further facilitate this Weilish activity in order to maximize the tax benefits to donors and structure the process so that the loan reimbursements are fairly distributed to those that qualify. We are seeking legal and tax advice currently on the best way to do this. In the meantime, we will use the “Angel Matching” method. We are anticipating that this program will grow and eventually need its own staff in a foundation format to carry out the activities.
Photo: Jonas Weil, BS ’58, MBA ’59. Inspiration for the StudVent Loan Angels program. Courtesy of Cornell University.
Photo 2: Professor David BenDaniel, Don and Margi Berens Professor of Entrepreneurship and Cornell’s “Founding Father of Entrepreneurship Education”, and the idea/pitchman behind the Weil Fellowship.
The Article below was published by Ezra, Cornell University’s Quarterly Magazine.
The Jonas Weil Entrepreneurial Fellowship: Launching new businesses when the time is right, but cash is tight
by Kate Klein
Weil’s father took over this enterprise. By the time young Jonas Weil had earned his Cornell degree (from the then-School of Business and Public Administration), however, the family’s assets had been liquidated, and his opportunity to take over the family business was gone.
“The timing was wrong,” he said.
A successful entrepreneurial venture, Weil knows from experience, takes a good concept, a little luck and timing.
In the 1990s, Weil was ahead of the times when he founded Office Plus, a chain of temporary office spaces and services for traveling executives. Located near airports in strategic cities, including St. Louis, Minneapolis, and Boston, Office Plus offered telephone, printing and board room space for business people while they were on the road.
“This was before other people went into the same business,” said David BenDaniel, the Don and Margi Berens Professor of Entrepreneurship at Johnson. He said Weil came up with a good concept in the era before cell phones and laptops; still, Office Plus, like any new business, had its problems.
“He was always cash strapped,” said BenDaniel, who invited Weil to Ithaca to present his case in classes. For five years, students in BenDaniel’s entrepreneurship classes worked on Office Plus as a real-life case study, coming up with ideas that helped the business grow.
When Weil sold the company in 1996, students gave him a standing ovation in the classroom.
He also made a major profit: On BenDaniel’s recommendation, he sold Office Plus to a competitor for more than triple the price he’d originally estimated. “We did in fact cash out at the top of the market,” Weil said. “The timing was right on.”
Within a few years of that sale, the dot-com bubble burst, desktop publishing emerged, and executive road warriors started carrying their own mobile phones.
BenDaniel encouraged Weil to found a fellowship with some of the profits to support future entrepreneurs. Since 1997, the Jonas Weil Fellowship has helped nearly 70 Johnson graduates pay off their school loans, allowing them to focus on starting new businesses. “We are the only school in the country that has such a fund,” BenDaniel says.
The two years of business school can be an ideal time to start entrepreneurial ventures, said Brad Miller, MBA ’06, M.D. ’06, a Weil fellowship recipient, but finances can be tight. He founded Square6 Group, a consulting firm that helps the medical and health care industries use data, while his Johnson classmates were taking middle management jobs and drawing regular salaries. “That’s a hard gravity to get out of,” Miller said.
A Weil fellowship gave Adam Tow, MBA ’12, funds and encouragement to grow a project he started while still a student into a viable business. His company, Seraph Robotics, sells 3-D printers to biomedical researchers. His customers, most of them at universities, use such machines to lay groundwork. Some day, said Tow, they will “print” living body parts, such as heart valves, for transplants and implants.
Receiving Weil fellowships in 1997 and 1998 allowed Steven Kropper, MBA ’86, to take a risk on his startup Domania.com, which opened the way for automated consumer access to property databases through sites such as Zillow.com and Eppraisal.com. “Without that scholarship, public access to public information would have been delayed significantly,” Kropper said.
Gaye Tomlinson, MBA ’05, said the emotional and psychological impact of the Weil fellowship is huge. She received five Weil fellowships starting in 2009, just when she was working to launch Vaha Group, a California-based firm that works with businesses and homeowners to cut down on wasted energy, and to install sustainable energy sources, such as solar. She and her husband started the business in a recession year, when even their families doubted their plan.
“Getting the grant is a stamp of approval,” she said.
Kate Klein is a program assistant for Alumni Affairs and Development