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Alumni invest $1M in Furman investors fellowship

Molly Hulsey //August 15, 2022//

Alumni invest $1M in Furman investors fellowship

Molly Hulsey //August 15, 2022//

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Walking in the footsteps of two Furman graduates, fledgling investors can learn the ropes through a Venture South fellowship program at the university’s The Hill Institute for Innovation and Entrepreneurship.

The Clemens family, flanked by Ken Clemens and Chase Clemens, hope to inspire future investment in the program. (Photo/Provided)The eight-week Clemens Angel Analyst Fellowship, coined through a $1 million gift from Ken Clemens, a 1987 alumnus, and his son Chase Clemens, a 2022 alumnus, will offer students a deep dive into the “secrets of angel investing,” according to a news release.

Eight to 10 students will be taught the analytical skills needed to evaluate pitches and parse promising startup plans from the rest, according to the younger Chase, who served for two years as the chair of Furman’s Investment Banking Club and is pursuing a career in finance.

At the conclusion of the fellowship, the students will be eligible for a paid internship during which they can apply what they learned through real-life investment opportunities with VentureSouth.

Clemens said he was approached about three years ago by Anthony Herrera, executive director of The Hill Institute for Innovation and Entrepreneurship, with an idea that spurred the Angel Analyst Program. The student seized on the idea and ran with it.

“It was Chase’s ideas that led us to the gift for the fellowship,” the elder Clemens, CEO of the Pennsylvania-based URL Insurance Group, said in the release. “I thought this was a great chance to re-engage with my alma mater.”

Herrera said the gift is critical to positioning Furman University as a national leader in the field among liberal arts and science colleges by equipping students for careers in angel investing, venture capital and private equity.

“You would see these types of programs at major business schools,” Herrera said in the release, “but this is a unique offering at a traditional liberal arts and sciences university.”

The fellowship will help students understand how to evaluate companies in the early stages that they don’t have a lot of data on, he said.

“This is not like investing in Amazon or Walmart where you can look at their historical financial statements,” Herrera said in the release. “You’re having to use your research and evaluation and analytical skills.”

Some 60-70% of high school students want to study entrepreneurship in college, he said, noting the nation is in a period of entrepreneurial revolution with more people wanting to work for themselves, a trend accelerated by the pandemic. The program can also be advantageous to young entrepreneurs, according to Herrera.

“Chase grabbed onto the vision of what this could be,” he said in the release. “Future students will come here because we have this program.”

While many schools have great ideas, the URL Insurance Group CEO said, they aren’t always adept at putting the right energy and people behind them. He sees something different in The Hill Institute, something worth investing in now and in the future. 

He hopes his family’s $1 million gift will snowball into investment from additional families.

“The Hill Institute is as innovative as anything I’ve seen nationally,” Clemens said in the release.