Alumni-driven Startup Wins $25K Davidson Venture Fund Investment

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(l-r) Marybeth Campeau '11, Jessica Malordy '11 and Zoe Balconis '11

(l-r) Marybeth Campeau ’11, Jessica Malordy ’11 and Zoe Balconis ’11

A startup publication founded by three Davidson alumni, Misadventures magazine, recently has been offered an investment of $25,000 as the winner of the 2014 Davidson College Venture Fund.

Beginning this year, the fund will provide planned investments in annual awards of up to $25,000. The fund accepts applications from Davidson students and recent alumni who present business plans, and a panel of judges chooses recipients.

Misadventures magazine, which spotlights the lives of adventurous women, is headed by three alumnae—Belk Scholar Zoe Balaconis ’11, Marybeth Campeau ’11 and Jessica Malordy ’11. Misadventures intends to provide an alternative to the highly male-focused realm of outdoors and adventure magazines.

The trio, who learned to explore, inquire and innovate at Davidson, seek to extend the values of their liberal arts education into the mainstream. Misadventures accomplishes that goal by providing inquisitive and dynamic women—who are largely ignored by conventional media—an outlet to connect with, learn about and validate each other. The judges rewarded the team for their ability to convert this valuable aspect of Davidson’s culture into a workable business plan.

Because the $25,000 is an investment rather than a cash prize, Davidson College also will own a small percentage of the magazine and will help ensure that the fledgling business succeeds.

Additionally, one finalist team was offered a position in the Davidson College Venture Lab, a summer accelerator for student startups based in Charlotte. The student team, named Crossfaded, is comprised of math majors and musicians with bold ideas for creating and distributing online music content.

Encouraging Entrepreneurship

The Venture Fund is part of Davidson’s growing Entrepreneurship Initiative, which is designed to inspire, connect and support a community of entrepreneurs at Davidson. The fund is supported by a generous 2013 gift from Marian Nisbet and her two sons, Walter Olin “Chip” Nisbet IV ’86 and William McGowan Nisbet, which also supports other branches of the Entrepreneurship Initiative.

The process for this year’s competition began in January 2013, when teams first applied to become finalists. Accepted teams then attended a series of three clinics led by Davidson’s Entrepreneur in Residence Mark Williams ’86. The clinics aimed to refine the teams’ business models and presentations.

The teams then presented their business plans to a panel of judges, including local entrepreneur Mark McDowell, founder and managing partner of Court Square Ventures Chris Holden ’85 and Davidson College President Carol Quillen.

With the $25,000 investment, the Misadventures team hopes to increase Misadventures readership and revenue through advertising, branded product sales and a transition to a print-based business model. “The investment will primarily go toward increasing our visibility through a variety of methods, including advertising,” Balaconis explained.

Campeau also expressed her gratitude for Davidson’s recent focus on entrepreneurship. “A liberal arts education teaches students to develop and share ideas, which then creates conversations. That’s what we aim to achieve with Misadventures. Those values of innovation and collaboration are very applicable to entrepreneurship.”

Williams added, “Davidson is quietly and strategically investing in the ideas of our students. We are making investments and taking risks to say that we truly believe in their ideas.”

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About Author

Robert Abare '13

Robert Abare is Davidson’s media relations fellow, the latest recent graduate to be granted the privilege of honing his journalistic skills under the tutelage of the bike-riding sage Bill Giduz ’74, and his office comrade, John Syme ’85. Robert graduated from Davidson with a degree in English, and is considering a career in political public relations, post-fellowship.

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