ANN ARBOR — The Social Venture Fund, a student-led venture fund at the University of Michigan’s Samuel Zell & Robert H. Lurie Institute for Entrepreneurial Studies, has invested in an early-stage bridge financing round for Austin, Texas0based Querium Corp.
Querium is an educational technology developer that uses artificial intelligence to provide students with step-by-step coaching for math, science and engineering.
The Social Venture Fund contributed $50,000 towards a total $720,000 convertible note round and was one of approximately 10 investors.
The Social Venture Fund invests in and supports innovative, for-profit companies that place social and environmental impact at the heart of their business model. It is the nation’s first such student-led fund.
The fund is managed by a team of approximately 40 students pursuing master’s and bachelor’s degrees in business administration — many of whom are pursuing dual-degrees with education, environment, health, law and public policy. Its faculty advisor is Uday Rajan, who chairs the finance department at UM’s Ross School of Business.
The fund focuses its investments in four key industry verticals: education, healthcare, food systems and environment and urban revitalization.
“As an institution whose mission it is to improve lives through learning, we understand the potential Querium has to change the world through education,” said Stewart Thornhill, executive director of the Zell Lurie Institute. “The Social Venture Fund has done an excellent job of selecting a company with a bright future and the capacity to expand its place in the market.”
Querium, the fund’s third direct investment in education, helps teens and adult learners master critical STEM skills at their own pace. Recently named by Fast Company as one of “The Most Innovative Companies of 2016: Education,” Querium’s unique Virtual Tutor evaluates student work step-by-step to provide instant feedback and assist in the development of cognitive skills.
Students receive real-time grading and coaching that mimic a live tutoring experience through smartphones and tablets as well as PCs, opening up access for students who may not have home computers.
Querium collects 20 pieces of data including types of errors made from every step a student enters, enabling teachers to understand exactly where and why students make mistakes so that they may better tailor their lesson plans to provide differentiated instruction. Ultimately, Querium drives significant social impact by improving high school test scores and helping community college students avoid exceptionally costly and burdensome remedial STEM courses.
A team of seven students, led by Wiles Kase, MBA/MS ‘18, sourced the deal and conducted in-depth due diligence on the company. The Fund’s rigorous deal sourcing process began with consideration of applications for funding from more than 150 companies; companies selected for due diligence then participated in the fund’s months-long process, which included analysis of their products’ effectiveness, markets, financials and social impact.
The team determined Querium would be a strong investment for the Fund due to the company’s impressive technology, dynamic management team, and potential to improve test scores and minimize the burden of remedial STEM coursework.