Ideas with Impact
UNB Faculty of Management

One foot in the door for UNB’s student venture analysts in training

Author: Faculty of Management

Posted on Feb 25, 2021

Category: Programs , Student Highlights , Students

Fazley Shabab Chowdhury is finishing his MBA degree program at UNB Fredericton with an experience he says he will never forget. As a student venture analyst completing the Venture Assessment course this year, he and his classmates were involved in an intense round of investment in TrojAI Inc., a Saint John, New Brunswick-based start-up that is developing solutions to protect AI platforms from adversarial attacks.

UNB’s faculty of management offers Venture Assessment in partnership with the New Brunswick Innovation Foundation (NBIF) as part of the concentration in venture commercialization, scaling and investment. BBA and MBA students are trained to be venture analysts and conduct proper due diligence by working side-by-side with NBIF analysts, who closed their own $200,000 investment in TrojAI last November. The students worked with six start-ups since September, analyzing real numbers and preparing to invest real cash, before selecting TrojAI for their $25,000 investment through UNB’s Fraser Student Venture Fund.

Chowdhury says he and his classmates were attracted to the company for many reasons, including “… the high growth potential of the AI industry, the value proposition of the product, and the track record of the founders,” who previously exited their AI-enabled surveillance software company EhEye Inc. in January 2019.

TrojAI was also chosen last fall to participate in the Techstars AI Montreal accelerator program. “To be selected as a TechStars company is significant validation for a potential investor,” explains Sydney Rankin, program coordinator with UNB’s International Business and Entrepreneurship Centre (IBEC). “Competition for any TechStars accelerator cohort is exceptional, and takes a truly novel idea backed by a high-performing team to bring it to market.”

In December, after conducting their analysis, students pitched TrojAI to the Fraser Student Venture Fund investment committee which is made up of experienced investors like Marcel Lebrun (Chair, Potential Motors, and former CEO, Radian6), Jeff White (CEO, NBIF), and Jennifer Morrison (Treasurer, UNB). The committee approved the recommendation and the term sheets were signed in February.

Chowdhury says, “We were involved in all stages of this deal, from negotiating with the entrepreneurs, conducting deep due diligence, structuring the investment, writing up the term sheet, presenting it to the investment committee and watching the investment close”.

The Fraser Student Venture Fund was established by Charles Fraser (BBA ’68) so that students completing the Venture Assessment course would gain first-hand experience investing in early-stage start-ups from their own venture capital fund, and to support New Brunswick entrepreneurs.

Like other venture capital funds, the growth of the Fraser Student Venture Fund depends on the returns on investments. The pressure for students to make wise decisions that will enable future students to continue investing in early-stage New Brunswick start-ups is all part of the learning experience.

“It was pretty tense knowing this is a real company and you’re working on real numbers that can make a significant difference in the return potential to the fund. The outcome can be huge on the upside and things can go south on the downside,” says Chowdhury.

In addition to the investments from NBIF and the Fraser Student Venture Fund, TrojAI has attracted financing from Techstars Montreal AI, Halifax-based Concrete Ventures and other angel investors. The $25,000 investment from the FSVF helped the company close their $1 million goal to expand their business development and sales activity, and further develop their technology.

Chowdhury left his home in Bangladesh to complete the MBA program at UNB Fredericton because of its specialization in entrepreneurship, including the concentration in venture commercialization, scaling and investment. The experience of investing in a start-up with hyper growth potential like TrojAI, has inspired him to become a venture capital and private equity investor. He’s already got one foot in the door.

“It cannot be better than this. You only expect to get this type of experience working for an actual venture capital firm.”

 Photo: MBA student Fazley Chowdhury is a venture capital and private equity investor in the making since taking the Venture Assessment course at UNB.


Are you a New Brunswick based entrepreneur looking for early-stage pre-seed funding? Contact Sydney Rankin, program coordinator with our International Business and Entrepreneurship Centre (IBEC), to learn if your start-up can be included in our student venture analyst’s next round of investment considerations.

Learn more about UNB’s Fraser Student Venture Fund and our MBA with Concentration in Venture Commercialization, Scaling and Investment.

For more information about this story, contact Liz Lemon-Mitchell.