Protégé Ventures, a fund created and driven by university students, announced today its first ever investment. The recipient is Nurture.AI, a startup that has built a platform to help the artificial intelligence community find, critique and disseminate the latest research in the AI field.
As part of a larger funding round, the startup will receive a S$25,000 (US$19,000) convertible note sponsored by Wavemaker Partners and Jeff Chi from Vickers Ventures.
The Protégé initiative is quite interesting because the venture fund is run entirely by students, but also only invests in student-led startups.
The goal behind the initiative — which was created by Singapore Management University (SMU) in partnership with Kairos ASEAN — is to provide a real-world opportunity to groom the next generation of tech VCs.
It also provides an opportunity for student entrepreneurs to gather enough funding to continue pursuing their goal of starting a company.
The initiative is also sponsored by local VCs Wavemaker Partners, Venturecraft, Marvelstone Group, TSR Partners and Jeff Chi from Vickers Ventures.
Young people are generally been adept at pinpointing market trends and understanding what is ‘cool’. Paul Santos, Managing Partner at Wavemaker Partners pointed out why Protégé can be useful beyond the university setting.
“We believe that students can sometimes identify market opportunities that others miss and we want to encourage and foster entrepreneurship. Protege Ventures shows us the potential these student founders have, and we are happy and excited to support and nurture them.”
Protégé is made up of 17 student-VCs from universities across Singapore and the team went through a 3-month-long training course led by the VC industry in the city.
One fantastic benefit of the programme is the opportunity it provides students to make mistakes and learn. For example, Nurture.AI originally did not meet qualifications for funding but worked with Protégé for a few weeks and was able to present a higher quality business proposition.
Now, not only did the Nurture.AI team grow as entrepreneurs, they have S$25,000 to figure out the long-term viability of the product.
John Ser, one of the Student VCs explained, ““Nothing replaces the real-life experience of going out there sourcing for student-led startups to be a part of the deal flow, analysing the deals, and finally having the courage and confidence to pitch these deals to the Protege Ventures investment committee for funding.”
Nurture.AI was founded by Jia Qing Yap and Kim Meng Tan because the duo realised a lot of the popular theoretical artificial intelligence research did not include code implementation techniques.
So, the duo are creating a platform that allows for peer-to-peer criticism of AI papers to improve accountability of research. So far, the team has built a 5,000-person strong community in 107 cities across the world.
The UI is pretty neat. It includes a function that filters through Twitter to present relevant papers and a text-highlight function that turn academic papers into discussion opportunities. Then, the community can rate the reviews, clarify their confidence levels and verify crowdsourced code implementations.
Last year, Nurture.AI organised a challenge that brought together 1,000 participants and then led to the successful implementation of 46 open-source code implementations for research papers.