New Ilitch School student organization Warrior Ventures is WSU’s first student-run venture capital fund

Man and woman smiling next to a screen that reads Warrior Ventures
Austin Churley and Claire Stevens at a Warrior Ventures Meeting

When Austin Churley transferred to the Ilitch School to study finance, he wasn’t sure of the path that lay ahead. 

“Coming to the Ilitch School as a transfer student, I was conflicted about what I wanted to do,” said Churley, who played football at Northwood University for two years before coming to Wayne State. “After my first year here at the Ilitch School I was really seeing that I have to apply myself in some way, and I think I have found a more meaningful purpose in my life at Wayne, so that has been a blessing.”

Churley’s passion for finance and entrepreneurship has driven him to work with a team to create Warrior Ventures, a new student organization at the business school, and the first student-run venture capital fund at Wayne State. More than just a student organization, Warrior Ventures aims to help make student and alumni business ideas a reality.   

Ilitch School of Business Dean Virginia Kleist is incredibly supportive of the new organization, commenting, “The Warrior Ventures student organization mirrors the student run venture capital organizations at the very best business schools in the United States. Austin and his colleagues consulted with many of our Ilitch associated venture capital business leaders to prepare us for exciting student VC investing work for years ahead here at our school.

Man and woman stand in front of a screen presenting.
Churley and Stevens presenting at 
a Warrior Ventures meeting

“Together with our Student Managed Investment Fund (SMIF), Warrior Ventures sets the Ilitch School of Business apart as a top business school where students learn by doing, investing with real money in real businesses, just like an investor might do. The faculty and business community leaders’ oversight adds to the overall learning experience for our students. We have just added a new minor in Entrepreneurship and Innovation, open to all Wayne State Students, and they are welcome to become members of Wayne Warriors.”   

Churley connected with like-minded people in the Ilitch School community who helped support and encourage him along the way. 

“Professor Basma really opened the door for my interest in finance alone, and in Professor Stoltman’s introductory entrepreneurship class we built our own companies and got to learn more about what venture is and the entrepreneurial process,” said Churley. “Professor Kevin Ketels has been working very closely with me as the faculty advisor for Warrior Ventures and has really transformed what this organization is today.” 

In creating the new student organization, Churley collaborated with other engaged student leaders to build this organization, including Claire Stevens, who co-founded Warrior Ventures with Churley and Michael Saad, who joined the organization following a semester abroad in the Netherlands. 

“I have worn many hats throughout this process, as you often do when you are trying to get any organization or startup off the ground and running,” said Stevens. “From crafting details about our organization, creating engaging curriculum for our educational Boot Camp, to drafting branding material for our digital networks and social media, this project has been really comprehensive.” 

“I act as a Managing Director of the fund, and VP of Finance,” said Saad. “I also help teach our semesterly bootcamp, educating our selected cohort on venture capital and investing principles. As a Managing Director, I will help make the final pitch to our board of advisors once we have completed our due diligence process and are ready to make an investment.”  

The organization has two branches, one that hosts events and engages their student body members, and another that invests real money in student and alumni associated startup companies. While they are still developing their capacity for investments, that has not stopped them from developing enthusiasm for entrepreneurship at the business school. 

Man and woman holding microphones sitting next to each other on a stage,
Churley moderating "New Generation of Venture Capital Talent"
alongside Caroline Wolanin '22, an Investor at Plymouth Growth​​​​​

“We are launching what we call our bootcamp, which is a training session where the Warrior Ventures leadership and I are going to outline the aspects of venture capital.” explained Churley. “We had an alum come in to speak that works at Plymouth Growth talk to students about her experience coming out of Wayne and going into venture capital.” 

The Ilitch School also co-hosted the Future of Venture Capital in Detroit and Southeast Michigan, inviting the venture capital community to come to the Ilitch School for a keynote address and two panels, one of which Churley was invited to moderate. 

Churley, Stevens and Saad’s work to put venture capital center stage at the business school shows students what career possibilities are open to them, and aligns with WSU’s College to Career initiative, which seeks to provide every student with experiential learning opportunities that allow them to encounter the world, gain deeper insights and new perspectives, and prepare for prosperous careers.  

“I see Warrior Ventures continuing to grow and being an asset to the Wayne State community as well as the local entrepreneurial ecosystem,” said Saad. “We hope to help bridge the gap between WSU and the startup space in Detroit.” 

“I never thought it would be possible, coming to Wayne State, talking with alums like Paul Glantz and Russ Belinksy,” said Churley. “Having all these resources together have been such an amazing experience, and to create something like this I never thought it would have been possible six or seven months ago.”  

Stevens sees a long future for this student organization as well. 

“I can see Warrior Venture's expanding from not only Wayne State University and the Michigan startup ecosystem, but to a national scale,” said Stevens. “I envision opportunities for students to travel and attend case competitions to showcase their knowledge as well as attending startup demo days. I am hopeful that there will be cross collaboration with other student-run venture capital funds in our future. Really, the sky is the limit for Warrior Ventures.” 

If you are a Wayne State entrepreneur looking to take your idea to the next level, you can head to the entrepreneurship and innovation webpage to learn more.

-Patrick Bernas, Information Officer III

The Wayne State University Mike Ilitch School of Business prepares students for challenging and rewarding careers, advances the boundaries of scholarly and practitioner knowledge, and enhances the economic vitality of the city of Detroit, the state of Michigan and beyond through its programs, research and community engagement. Established in 1946, the business school was renamed in 2015 in recognition of a $40 million gift from Mike and Marian Ilitch. Thanks to this lead investment, the school moved to a new state-of-the-art building in the heart of the District Detroit in 2018, and academic programming and collaboration with city businesses are expanding. For more information, visit   

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