Laura Seitz, Deseret Morning News
Rob Sanders, left, and Casey Elliot of Weber State University talk to Rick Alden, founder and CEO of Skullcandy, at the University Venture Summit in Salt Lake City on Friday.

The worst experience for a young business person is having to face investors and tell them the business has failed.

"You have got to really look inside yourself and see if you have it in you to say, 'I lost your money,"' said Rick Alden, founder and chief executive officer of Park City-based Skullcandy, a company that designs headphones, MP3-player watches and other audio products.

Alden was a speaker at the University Venture Summit, a University of Utah conference for college students Thursday and Friday that aimed to educate students about venture capital, financing for start-ups or companies attempting to turn around.

About 225 students from 20 colleges and universities — including Indiana University, Stanford University and the University of Michigan — attended the conference. Most of them want to start companies or work in business financing such as venture capital.

The conference featured some leading names in venture capital, such as Bill Price, a founder of what's now TPG Capital, a private equity firm with more than $34 billion in assets, and entrepreneurs from in and around Utah.

The conference was hosted by the University Venture Fund, a Salt Lake City-based "VC," or venture capital firm.

"We have 25 students working at any one time in the fund," said Cynthia Young, the conference's director.

The University Venture Fund provides money for start-up companies. With just $18 million, the UVF is a small player in venture capital, and the fund has a team of researchers — all students, either undergraduate or graduate, and mostly studying business — who research a concept, as well as its need and market, on a volunteer basis, said fund advisor Tom Stringham.

"We call it 'due diligence,"' Stringham said.

Based on that research, students make recommendations to UVF's management team about whether the fund should finance a start-up.

"University partners with other venture capitalists all over the country" to come up with investment packages for start-up companies, Stringham said.

Among the companies UVF has invested in are Advent Solar Inc., Chakshu Research, Handi Quilter and Merrimack Pharmaceuticals.

Shaun Ritchie, a U. student seeking a master's in business administration degree, has worked for UVF for seven months.

"I've met a lot of people in the VC/private equity community in Utah and outside of Utah just being associated with the fund," he said.

Ritchie owns a self-funded online marketing business and believes his experience in venture capital will help him after graduation in June.

"I want to start a new company," Ritchie said. "Having a solid knowledge of the venture capital (industry) is always way beneficial before you do something."

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