LSU Business Students Complete 8th Venture Capital Apprentice Program Cohort

May 14, 2024

BATON ROUGE - Forty-nine students from the LSU E. J. Ourso College of Business completed the eighth cohort of the Venture Capital Apprentice Program (VCAP), which was formed by Nexus Louisiana (NexusLA), Innovation Catalyst and the Red Stick Angel Network in collaboration with the E. J. Ourso College, LSU’s Innovation Park and the Baton Rouge Area Chamber.

“VCAP was designed to provide participating LSU students with real-world finance and business-related experience, along with networking and employment opportunities,” said Bill Ellison, CEO of Innovation Catalyst and the Red Stick Angels. “It also provides high-growth Louisiana based companies, who require finance, accounting and market research support services, with a team of smart and motivated students.”

In the eight cohorts since VCAP's inception in 2021, 251 students have worked on 60 separate projects/deliverables. 

The team projects involved completing a wide variety of relevant tasks for their respective companies, including the analysis of a company’s funding needs, equity crowdfunding comparative market analysis, competitor and market analysis, an analysis of industry regulations and private equity firms and a financial proforma.

“The variety, scope and complexity of the VCAP projects that are related to VC fundraising, M&A, business planning and strategy provide a unique learning opportunity for our students,” says Professor Rajesh Narayanan, chair of the LSU Department of Finance. “They were able to work closely with the management teams of local companies as opposed to working on a theoretical academic exercise. This type of practical, real-world application of the LSU finance curriculum is an incredibly valuable and unique experience for our students.”

In the spring of 2024, students in the venture capital course taught by Michael Kirby, retired co-founder of private equity firm Stonehenge Capital, participated in the VCAP’s eighth cohort. They formed eight teams and worked with the following local companies, spanning a variety of industries including software development, food and beverage, analytics, engineering, and hospitality: Arix Technologies, Directed Analytics, MCA Engineering, GrassFed, NormCorps Technologies, Bloom, Bon Jour Social and Leisure Center and Leroy’s Lemonade.

“It was awesome to work with these LSU finance students who got real-world experience working with a local tech founder on a tight timeline. The team came together quickly, delegating responsibilities to ensure that they could deliver a final project that would both impress Kirby but also provide real value to the CEO. The future of entrepreneurship and innovation is bright!” said Chris Spalatin, the Baton Rouge Area Chamber’s senior manager of small business and entrepreneurship. 

“Our clients enjoy the process of VCAP. Getting to help some of LSU’s best students become better learners is almost as rewarding as having their business challenges approached with a fresh perspective from the next generation of business leaders,” said Chris Wright, consultant with the SBDC at LSU.

“The students this semester were very engaged, and the way they took ownership of the project to find solutions for the companies involved has me excited for what they’ll be able to accomplish once they leave LSU and start making an impact on our economy,” said Adam McCloskey, center director at the Louisiana SBDC at LSU.

"Working with this VCAP cohort has been nothing short of exceptional. The engagement and professionalism displayed by my team was both inspiring and motivating. I'm excited about the next generation of talent coming from our state's flagship institution," said Alexander “Lex” Adams, the creator of GrassFed.

“It was an awesome experience to be able to work with a startup in its earliest stages. Being able to see how the process of starting a business happens first hand was amazing,” said Patrick Rice, a senior finance major. 

About Nexus Louisiana

Nexus Louisiana is a Baton Rouge based 501(c)3 nonprofit that provides high-potential, technology-enabled companies the coaching, capital, and connections they need to accelerate their growth.  

About Innovation Catalyst

Innovation Catalyst is a nonprofit venture development organization, formed by community leaders to strengthen and broaden Louisiana’s entrepreneurial ecosystem and drive new high-tech company formation through coaching, connections, and capital.

About the Red Stick Angel Network

The Red Stick Angel Network is a wholly owned subsidiary of Innovation Catalyst, whose members are accredited investors or "Angels" located in the greater Baton Rouge area. Its mission is to organize the Baton Rouge Angels as a network to identify, evaluate, and then aggregate investment capital of its members to invest in early-stage companies in Baton Rouge and throughout Louisiana. In addition to capital, its members provide coaching and connections to support and grow its portfolio companies, thereby fostering economic development and job creation in Baton Rouge and throughout the state. 

About the LSU E. J. Ourso College of Business

Since its establishment in 1928, the E. J. Ourso College of Business has served as the flagship business college of Louisiana, playing an essential role in uplifting the economy of the state and the well-being of its citizens. Each year, the college graduates more than 1,000 exceptional individuals who are the business leaders and entrepreneurs of the future. 

About Louisiana Small Business Development Center

The Louisiana Small Business Development Center (LSBDC) at LSU is part of a statewide network of 10 centers that deliver high quality, individualized business advising and technical assistance to existing small businesses and pre-venture entrepreneurs at no-cost. 

Concentrated on helping technology-based companies across the state and all businesses in the capital region, we provide problem-solving assistance to increase access to capital, develop and exchange new technologies, and improve business planning, strategy, operations, financial management, personnel administration, marketing, sales and other areas. 

If your goal is business growth and expansion, management improvement, increased productivity or innovation, meet with one of our certified consultants, or register for one of our training programs.

About LSU Innovation Park

LSU Innovation Park is a part of the LSU Office of Innovation & Ecosystem Development and provides entrepreneurs, small businesses, and companies with facilities and services necessary to launch and grow a successful organization. LSU Innovation Park offers amenities, access to experienced business consultants, services, and resources in the Capital region and throughout the state. Innovation Park also supports and manages the Small Business Development Center Network across the state. As the state’s flagship university, research is the cornerstone of LSU. LSU Innovation Park is located just five miles south of the main campus and is the focal point for technological innovation and startup ventures in the Baton Rouge region as a dedicated complex for research commercialization that benefits Baton Rouge and the state of Louisiana. Visit our website or call us at 225-578-4842 to discuss your business needs.


About the Baton Rouge Area Chamber

The Baton Rouge Area Chamber (BRAC) is an aggressively ambitious regional economic development organization with a bias for action. BRAC seeks to push Baton Rouge beyond the status quo, unleash its potential, and support a vibrant business community that believes the finish line does not exist. BRAC seeks to accelerate economic opportunity in the Baton Rouge Area, for everyone, through BRING IT! Baton Rouge, its five-year, regional strategic plan. Learn more about BRAC at

About Arix Technologies

ARIX Technologies was founded by industry veterans who collaborated with skilled robotics engineers and data scientists. From the beginning, our focus has been on helping solve the biggest asset integrity challenges plaguing our customers and the energy industry by leveraging expertise and technical innovation to improve safety, integrity, and reliability. 

About Directed Analytics

Directed Analytics is the developer of its proprietary software, Individualized Employability Development (IEDev) for automating employability skills development. IEDev unlocks career achievement potential of people who experience disparities in competitive employment. Directed Analytics’ focus is on improving competitive employment outcomes for persons with dyslexia, ADHD, autism, and related neurodiversity, along with people who are underserved & underrepresented in today's workforce. Directed Analytics is focused on driving toward impact throughout all product offerings.  

About MCA Engineering

MCA Engineering, based in Baton Rouge, Louisiana, is a reputable firm specializing in a wide array of engineering services. Established in 2019 with a commitment to excellence, MCA Engineering has built a strong reputation for delivering innovative solutions to complex engineering challenges.

The company offers a comprehensive range of engineering services, including civil, structural, mechanical, electrical, and more. With a team of highly skilled professionals, MCA Engineering is equipped to handle projects of various scales and complexities, serving clients across diverse industries and state lines.

One of the key strengths of MCA Engineering is its dedication to client satisfaction and project success. The firm prioritizes clear communication, attention to detail, and collaboration to ensure that client needs are met effectively and efficiently. The firm maintains a strong commitment to sustainability and environmental stewardship. 

Overall, MCA Engineering stands out as a trusted partner for engineering projects in Baton Rouge and beyond, offering expertise, reliability and a client-centric approach to every endeavor.

About GrassFed

Emerging from over five years of developing software for startups, GrassFed offers a fresh and innovative take on an otherwise stale software development service model. For a fixed monthly cost, the all-American GrassFed team delivers unlimited work. In their words, they are '100% grass-fed, locally sourced, sustainable U.S. development'!


About NormCorps Technologies

NormCorps Technologies, a pioneering startup, is diligently crafting software poised to revolutionize how companies connect with prospective clients, all while fostering environmental responsibility. At its helm are siblings: Tabitha Norman, CEO, a seasoned leader boasting two decades of invaluable expertise in business and customer relations, and Daniel Norman, CTO, an accomplished XR developer with over a decade of experience crafting customer driven software solutions. NormCorps Technologies is working hard to bring their product XhibitR™ to the trade show floors around the country.

About Bloom

Bloom Booking is a business tool that facilitates live event bookings between venues and performers. We empower small businesses to maximize their space and increase their revenue by connecting with live performers throughout our network.

About Bon Jour Social and Leisure Center

Bon Jour Social & Leisure Center is a unique social wellness club for golden agers diagnosed with early-stage cognitive impairment. We engage our clients in conversation, group activities, and we encourage cognitive stimulation through the activities. Our members enjoy coming to the club to spend their day with their new friends, enjoy our delicious home cooked lunch and share experiences.


About Leroy’s Lemonade

Leroy’s LipSmack’n Lemonade is a premier lemonade beverage manufacturing company headquartered in Baton Rouge, Louisiana that started from Lemonade Day for my six-year-old son Leroy III, who has autism and hearing loss. We are committed to supplying a clean, refreshing, freshly squeezed- thirst quenching experience. Our product has no additives, artificial flavors, or colors. Leroy’s was created with a unique mission to bring awareness to autism and to empower all special needs children, like Leroy, with hope and confidence to succeed and understand that their special need is not a limitation, and they can succeed at entrepreneurship. Leroy works in the business, and we hire special needs young adults.