Hoping to gain real-world experience, students from the University of Colorado Denver Business School’s Bard Center for Entrepreneurship have made their first investment in a promising new venture that is launching a powdered, single-dose aspirin product.

With the help of advisors from the Bard Center, the five graduate students manage the Rutt Bridges Venture Capital Fund. In their first decision, they are putting $50,000 into UrgentRx.

“UrgentRx was chosen from more than 80 other businesses because it is well-funded and has a unique product with huge potential,” said Jeff Macco, an MBA student and one of the fund’s managers. “At the same time it has a very driven CEO who will be a guest lecturer in entrepreneurship classes at the Business School.”

Software entrepreneur Rutt Bridges started the venture capital fund in 1998. His goal was to create seed capital for start-up companies affiliated with the Business School’s Bard Center for Entrepreneurship.

“It is crucial to support start-ups and small businesses in Colorado, which provide the vast majority of jobs in the state,” he said.

Bridges, a member of the Bard Center Advisory Council, has no management or oversight over the fund but wants to provide a real-world education for students by letting them manage it.

“When we were given the reins of the fund, we were told how much money we had, what the rules were and that the main goal was education,” Macco said. “We rigorously source our deals, meet with applicants, conduct due diligence and make the final decision about whether to invest in a company.” The five-member team of students includes Lou Arellano, Kara Grinnell, Kara Moody and Jonathan B. Musser.

Helping students is advisor Seth Levine, managing director of the Foundry Group, a Boulder-based venture capital fund.

“Seth has invested in technology start-ups and social marketing and has a tremendous amount of knowledge,” said Dawn Gregg, interim administrative director at the Bard Center and associate professor of information systems and entrepreneurship. “He wants to make this a success and give back. He loves the entrepreneurial community in Colorado and wants this fund to make a real difference.”

Levine described the tie-in between the students and UrgentRx as an ideal partnership that lets them invest in a new company with great prospects while CEO and founder Jordan Eisenberg gives back in the classroom.

“The main function of this fund is education, and I’m very excited to see how the students will manage their investment,” Levine said. “I am also looking forward to the knowledge they will take away from Jordan’s participation as a lecturer at the Bard Center.”

Eisenberg said, “Having the support and financial backing of the Business School’s Bard Center gives UrgentRx a great leg up.”

“I look forward to speaking at the Bard Center later this year and sharing a meaningful success story with students,” he added.

The selection of UrgentRx follows its second-place finish last year in the annual Bard Center Business Plan Competition. At the time, the judges commended both the uniqueness of the product and the thoroughness of Eisenberg’s presentation. The next Business Plan Competition, focusing on business students and alumni, will take place on June 16, 2011.

“We don’t get academic credit, but the experience is priceless,” Macco said. “How many graduate students get to run a venture capital fund? For that matter, how many professionals ever get to run a fund?”

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