Father-Son Duo Donates $1 Million to Angel Analyst Fellowship
Ever wonder how angel investors and venture capitalists decide which startups to fund and which to pass up?
They possess special analytical skills that allow them to evaluate pitches from all types of ventures and founders.
Thanks to a $1 million gift by a father-and-son team to The Hill Institute for Innovation and Entrepreneurship, students will be able to learn the secrets of angel investing.
The newly named Clemens Angel Analyst Fellowship is a collaboration with VentureSouth, a Greenville, South Carolina-based firm that funds startups in the Southeast.
It’s the work of Ken Clemens ’87 and his son, Chase Clemens ’22 – both business majors.
The eight-week fellowship will give eight to 10 students a deep dive into new venture investment, teaching them the skills they need, said Chase Clemens, who served two years as chair of Furman’s Investment Banking Club.
At the conclusion of the fellowship, the students will be eligible for a paid internship during which they can apply what they learned to real-world investment opportunities with VentureSouth.
“It was Chase’s ideas that led us to the gift for the fellowship,” said Ken Clemens, noting that the two had talked about how they might turn their passion for the school into something positive for the future.
“I thought this was a great chance to re-engage with my alma mater,” he added.
Chase Clemens said he was approached about three years ago by Anthony Herrera, executive director of The Hill Institute for Innovation and Entrepreneurship, about an idea to start an Angel Analyst Program.
The $1 million gift from the Clemens Family Foundation is the next step.
“This would be training students to think analytically and problem solve related to different … venture capital deals,” he said. “(These) are some of the skills you’d learn from a top internship with any financial institution.”
Herrera said the gift is critical to positioning Furman as a national leader in the field among liberal arts and science colleges by equipping students with the skills and experiences for careers in angel investing, venture capital and private equity.
“You would see these types of programs at major business schools,” he said, “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,” he said. “You’re having to use your research and evaluation and analytical skills.”
The program is designed for any discipline, not just business , Herrera said, and is also valuable to those who want to start their own companies.
Some 60-70% of high school students want to study entrepreneurship in college, he said, noting the nation is in the midst of an entrepreneurial revolution with more people wanting to work for themselves, a trend accelerated by the pandemic.
“Chase grabbed onto the vision of what this could be,” he said. “Future students will come here because we have this program.”
While many schools have great ideas, Ken Clemens said, they aren’t always adept at putting the right energy and people behind them, adding that Herrera and his team are already highly successful.
“The Hill Institute is as innovative as anything I’ve seen nationally,” he said.
After graduating, Ken Clemens started a business before going into real estate investment banking and then into insurance. He is currently CEO of the URL Insurance Group in Harrisburg, Pennsylvania. Chase Clemens, who graduated this year, is pursuing jobs in finance.
The fellowship is an endowed gift so it will be ongoing, Ken Clemens said, adding that he hopes the gift will inspire other families to invest in their legacies.
“Chase and I have a great passion and love for Furman and want to do everything we can to see it succeed,” he said. “It will give the students an advantage that others don’t have. And in the end, that’s really what we’re trying to accomplish.”