Worth the Risk
Entrepreneur Bart Holaday partners with UND alum to form nation’s first student-run capital investment fund.
Bart Holaday, a graduate of the U.S. Air Force Academy, built his career as an entrepreneur, an asset manager and an early adopter of venture capital investing. When venture capital, a risky but profitable investment method, was gaining popularity in the 1980s, Bart was invited to present it to the North Dakota State Investment Board. From the front of the fiscally conservative room, he could tell receptivity was waning.
“Everybody was just shaking their heads except for two people who were smiling at me. One was my mother, and the other was Bruce Gjovig.” At the time, Gjovig, ’74, was CEO of UND’s Center for Innovation (CFI).
Of similar ideals, Bart and Bruce formed a partnership – Bruce offered the opportunity for Bart to teach students his investing techniques while Bart funded several entrepreneurial programs through the foundation he established with his late wife, Lynn. One such program was the Dakota Venture Group, the nation’s first student-run fund that allows students to experience capital investing using seed money provided by the program.
“When we originally put the money in, I figured the worst-case scenario was we would lose $400,000 but that some students would learn something,” said Bart.
Since 2006, 250 students have graduated from the program and the fund has grown to nearly $1.5 million. “It has turned out to be far better than I ever dreamed. It’s been a tremendous tribute to what students can do if you give them the freedom to chart their own direction. I think it’s the best investment I ever made.”
Although he didn’t graduate from UND, Bart has become a trusted advisor and friend of the University, serving on the board of CFI and the UND Alumni Association & Foundation. In 2006, he received an honorary degree. Bart and his wife, Cathy (pictured), live in Colorado Springs where they manage the Dakota Foundation.
STUDENTS TAKE CHARGE
The Dakota Venture Group allows students to gain real-world investing experience. Education, opportunity, and strategy are the core principles that students develop as a result of this program.