Connecting students with the world of venture capital

January 18, 2022
Ushna Khan founded Spider Venture Fund to provide hands-on learning opportunities.

Ushna Khan, ’22, recognized an opportunity to provide fellow students with hands-on learning in venture capitalism and worked to make it a reality. After a summer internship with True Venture, a venture capital firm in Silicon Valley, piqued her interest in the private equity industry, Khan wanted to continue adding to her experience while at University of Richmond.

“There was a lot of interest from students and gaining professional experience in the field is crucial as we pursue internships and careers,” Khan shared.

She approached Dean Quiñones who supported her endeavor and thus Spider Venture Fund (SVF) was founded. Khan’s ultimate goal is to establish a fund for students to draw from as they pursue startup endeavors, and in working towards that developed a 10-week accelerator program during her time as a chief development officer with Spider Ventures. “I want students to really get acquainted with what goes into founding a startup and evaluating funding opportunities. So many have ideas but don’t know what to do with it or how to source funding,” she said.

The Robins School provided resources through the Harry Garmon Entrepreneurship Fund for SVF’s leadership team and analysts to complete a training program to learn more about venture capital firm activities like due diligence and sourcing accountability, industry and competitive research, and evaluating investment opportunities. Dean Quiñones also connected Khan with Trolley Ventures, a Richmond-based venture capital firm founded by Robins School alumni, with who SVF worked throughout the fall.

“We were excited about the opportunity to partner with the Spider Venture Fund,” said Brad Cummings, B’92, managing director at Trolley. “They did a competitive analysis in the beauty space that far exceeded Trolley's expectations. Partially as a result, Trolley intends to invest in the beauty company, and the beauty company will also benefit from SVF's work. Now that's a win/win/win!'

Spider Venture Fund will work with Trolley Ventures again in the spring on two other projects. Khan hopes to further establish the organization this semester and expand their membership in the coming year. “Having real deliverables has helped us grow as individual professionals and as an organization,” Khan said. “The work with Trolley solidified that venture capitalism should be people- and relationship-focused. You are supporting the idea, but also the team behind it. You want everyone to be personally invested.”

Khan has startup ideas of her own and is continually working toward connecting students with more entrepreneurial opportunities. While at home in Pakistan during the early months of COVID-19, she founded Kumi, a learning management system that helped lower-income schools communicate and deliver resources while in quarantine. She is also working at The Egg, an organization that pairs startups with students looking to develop their skills and build a business.

Pictured in image: Back row, left to right: John Mulligan, Marcelo Ampie, Tyler Donsky, Nicholas Fallon
Front row, left to right: Stephanie Hull, Ushna Arshad Khan, Tuana Balta (Not pictured: Jack Cromwell)