Programs & Funds

Zell Early Stage Fund

The Zell Early-Stage Fund is a venture capital and pre-venture capital investment fund operated by Ross BBA students under the supervision of the Fund's Faculty Managing Director. The Fund is modeled on ZLI's famous Wolverine Venture Fund and the Zell Lurie Commercialization Fund. The Fund invests real money in real deals in real companies.

The Fund is in part a for-credit course, but it is an unusual course. Fund members are selected at the beginning of their Junior year via a rigorous application process. They are expected to serve on the Fund during both Fall and Winter semesters, for two years. As Juniors, Fund members are like associates. In their Senior year, students are like partners and mentors. It is a lot of work and a big commitment. It is not a club or student activity you can dip in and out of as your schedule permits. It is one of the most serious and distinctive courses at any business school.

Why should I join?

As a member of the Zell Early Stage Fund, you will learn how to do early-stage investing by actually doing it. You will learn how to analyze early-stage companies, markets, business models, financial models and exits. You will learn about deal terms, about how professional investors make decisions under uncertainty, and how investors and entrepreneurs deal with high levels of risk. You will decide whether to invest real money in actual early-stage funding rounds alongside other professional investors. You will have support from a board of advisers that includes entrepreneurs, venture capitalists, and other early-stage investors.

You will learn skills and get hands-on practice that will serve you well wherever marketing, financial or business model analyses are important tasks, and anywhere uncertainty and risk are important. Students who go into consulting, investment banking, equity analysis, or a startup, early-stage, or entrepreneurial company will draw on their Fund skills and experience immediately. You will have something to offer employers or partners that is distinctive - few undergraduates anywhere will have anything like it.

Who can join?

Each year the Fund selects a small group of first-semester BBA Juniors. They join the returning (2nd year) Seniors to operate the Fund.

Your commitment will be for two years, both semesters each year, first as a "junior associate" and then in your senior year as a "student partner."

What are you looking for?

We know you are smart and accomplished. If you weren't, you wouldn't be our BBAs. We have the difficult task of selecting a small number of you from a large group of high achievers, so we are looking for something distinctive and relevant. (It would be distinctive if you can play the clarinet while riding a unicycle blind-folded, but it's not all that relevant to the Fund.)

You do not need venture capital, investing, finance, or startup experience. We will teach you about early-stage investing. We do expect most Fund members to have participated in significant activities that demonstrate their interest in early-stage companies or early-stage investing. You must have completed all the sophomore-required BBA courses prior to applying for the Fund.

The Fund will meet as a class on Wednesdays, from 5:00-7:30 pm. The Fund is a for-credit course. Attendance at every class meeting is mandatory.

You also will work in deal teams. When a deal team is working on a potential investment, the team will meet often and at odd hours to get the due diligence done. That is how transactional practice and investing works in the real world and that is how it will work at the Fund. Deal team meetings are mandatory.

Joining the Fund is a big commitment. It is not merely another activity to dress up your resume. You will not have time to do well in the BBA program, participate in a major way in multiple activities, and do the Fund. You can participate in other clubs and activities but it won't work if you take a leadership or major role in another activity and try to do the Fund. We take our ZLI Funds so seriously that a member who fails to put in sufficient effort can be removed from their Fund at any time at the discretion of their Fund's Faculty Managing Director.

We are looking for BBAs who:

  • Have produced high academic achievement so far at UM
  • Have a lot of energy and stamina (with something in their record that demonstrates their energy and stamina)
  • Will have a high level of commitment to the Fund
  • Work well on teams
  • Are mature in their judgment and conduct (You will deal with real-world investors and entrepreneurs)
  • Have demonstrated strong analytic and communications skills (Analytic skills can be quantitative or qualitative)
  • Are the best of the leaders and best. If that's you, we welcome your application.
How can I join?

To apply for the Fund,

  1. Please submit an application form that gives you an opportunity to tell us why you might be a good match for the Fund.  You can fill out and submit the application here.  
  2. Additionally, please email your resume to, using the subject line "[Last Name], [First Name] Application".

The deadline for applications is September 12th, at 11:59pm. A selected group of applicants will be invited to a short in-person interview.  Applicants who are accepted will be notified shortly thereafter.


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