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ASU grad students experience startup investing in new course


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Rachel Masterson, graduate student (left), and Gary Gibbons, clinical associate professor in the Thunderbird School of Global Management, discuss investment options during a new Startup Investing course.

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October 11, 2019

Rachel Masterson has dreamed of being an entrepreneur most of her life.

Her dad started his own electrical contracting company in Kentucky when she was 5. Fast forward 18 years. Her dad still owns his business, and Masterson is developing her own small business — an experiential entertainment venue akin to Top Golf but for street soccer.

Masterson, a graduate student in the Thunderbird School of Global Management at Arizona State University, said she wants to learn as much as she can about operating a successful business.

“I’m so interested in startups and want to learn how the funding process works and what an investor is looking for in a startup,” she said.

This year, Masterson and about 20 other graduate students from the Thunderbird School of Global Management and the W. P. Carey School of Business are the inaugural group to take Startup Investing to learn about angel networks and financing options for startups.

The students play an integral role with InvestU, a program that links accredited investors with ASU-affiliated startups that are at or near revenue generation. Masterson and her classmates are grouped in teams of four and review investment opportunities for InvestU, complete due diligence and present their findings to the InvestU Advisory Board. Two company finalists are selected for each InvestU pitch event, and a handful of students present their research findings during the pitch events to investors.

“This is another way to link entrepreneurship with investing,” said Gary Gibbons, a clinical associate professor who teaches the new course. “There’s not a lot of classes for smaller firms and financing them. This class is meant to firm up financing for InvestU firms and do real-time due diligence on those applications.”

Although few schools provide this hands-on training, it’s a skill that entrepreneurs need to know because due diligence is more challenging for small firms since there is less information available, he said.

Masterson volunteered with InvestU in March and assisted with company research and learned about identifying company problems, solutions, market analysis and competitive analysis. When she learned a new course would teach her more, she was eager to enroll.

“It’s not very often you can come across a course that is this practical and an applied learning experience to real life,” Masterson said. “These are real companies and real people looking to invest in real people. For students to be able to learn through this process is unique. I’m so glad that ASU and Thunderbird are offering this course to students.”

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