A few weeks ago, I had the chance to sit down with Lucas Bagno to learn more about how Atland Ventures began and what went into starting the fund. Bagno is a current investor at Village Global and a founding member of Atland Ventures, who played a critical role in raising Atland’s first fund. Since graduating, he has continued supporting Atland and its students in many ways: our conversation being an excellent example.
Majoring in Entrepreneurial Management, Finance, and Management Information Systems, Bagno found venture capital (VC) enticing, as it sat right at the center of his triple-major Venn diagram. “When I look back it’s certainly very clear to me that I’ve always had a passion for those three things, and VC is the way that those passions expressed themselves all at once,” Bagno noted. He continued this passion for VC beyond college where Bagno and two other Atland graduates started syndicating investments, co-founding Noveus Capital, a VC firm investing in companies leveraging generational shifts.
Bagno attributes a majority of his success today to his experience in Atland, which he characterizes as being “by far the most meaningful and valuable experience I’ve had that helped to catalyze everything else I’ve done for the last five years,” Bagno explains. Besides raising Fund I, during the first few years of its existence, promoting student engagement and developing a cohesive team were top priorities in Atland. Bagno acknowledges that Atland resembles a job with no distinct or immediate reward, but that ultimately, it could help fast forward career opportunities in entrepreneurship or VC for all students involved.
These potential career opportunities for those in the fund would not be possible without Atland’s growing status, which is largely attributed to the quality of talent Bagno and the other original fund members attracted. The intention behind Atland, as Bagno highlights, was to create a space fundamentally incomparable to a typical student group. Hence, they were extremely selective when recruiting students and ensured a rigorous hiring process. The recruitment team primarily looked for people who were dependable, comfortable with an unstructured environment, eager to learn, and who brought a diverse perspective. “We were looking for something exceptional about [applicants], and it didn’t exactly matter what it was but there had to be something different about them to get us excited,” Bagno added.
Many of these students came in with misconceptions about VC, posing a challenge to Bagno and the rest of the fund. “There was a huge amount of de-learning that we had to do and re-education; it was hard,” Bagno claimed. “We were figuring it out ourselves as we went, but if it wasn’t for all the people who supported us, there is no way we would have figured it out.” One way they accelerated the “re-education” process was by having students attend events to give them exposure to additional VC outside of fund meetings and activities. David Russick, Founder and Managing Director at Gopher Angels and one of Atland’s advisors, showed his support by allowing students to attend Gopher Angels pitch nights – a practice current fund members continue to follow.
When asked about raising Fund I, Bagno emphasized that it is a series of trial and error. “You learn a lot through it, and there’s no way to really learn it unless you’re actually beating your head against the wall, doing it every day, and getting rejected for breakfast, lunch, and dinner,” Bagno expressed.
Looking at Fund II, Bagno hopes Atland continues to broaden its reputation and brand not only across the local Midwest ecosystem, but the rest of the nation as well. Above all, he is ecstatic to see Atland continue to maintain its rigor, its culture, and the passion that drives its students.
That was hopefully the legacy we left behind.