Investing in Connections
Hankamer investment networks yield benefits for alumni and students
By Justin Walker
Investments play a crucial role in our society, as do mentorships. While investments drive economic development and the profits can often be invested in other opportunities, mentorships are shown to promote stronger identity and higher satisfaction within a position or a career.
This idea of promoting mentorship through investing is the backbone of two networks within the Hankamer School of Business (HSB).
The Baylor Angel Network (BAN) was formed in 2009 as an investment network with opportunities for angel investors to contribute early-stage capital to privately-owned, start-up companies. The network brings students, entrepreneurs and investors—also called angels—together to support early-stage business ventures.
The network operates through the angel investors partnering with student analysts to review and select entrepreneurs for potential investment opportunities. The angels decide which entrepreneurial teams they want to invest in, either individually, with the network or through associated funds. Portions of the profit from these investments are then directed back to Baylor University in a variety of ways, John Sommers, the treasurer and business development manager at Sentinel Peak Resources, said.
“There is this idea that Baylor always supports Baylor,” Sommers, who earned his BBA in Baylor Business Fellows, Finance and Economics in 2012, said. “BAN was built to benefit Baylor. Not just the University, but also students and alumni.”
The benefits for angel investors—who are often but not always alumni of Baylor—are tremendous, Sommers said. The opportunity to give back is always rewarding, he said.
“It may be cliche, but any time that you are mentoring or giving back, you typically get more out of it than the mentees do,” he said. “I think you will hear that from every angel.”
Being involved with BAN also allows investors to stay plugged into the University and HSB, Sommers said. Angels gain the ability to see what students are learning in their coursework and how they are applying it to their analyst roles. They are also actively involved in suggesting certain topics across HSB to ensure students are prepared to be successful in the workforce.
Another advantage is an increased connection to the Baylor alumni network, Sommers said. Through BAN, Sommers has met people from many different industries. The varying knowledge and expertise that exists within the network can come in handy if or when issues arise.
“I am an oil and gas guy but maybe there is a cloud computing expert that is investing in the same deal,” he said. “We now have a mutual connection. If I have a problem come up in that arena, I know the right guy to call.”
That network benefit extends to the students as well. As an analyst, students have the ability to work directly with many angel investors and begin to gain valuable real-world investing experience as well as develop a professional network. In addition, the student analysts receive mentorship and experience during their time in BAN that carries benefits beyond a career.
Sommers, who served as a student analyst for BAN while attending Baylor and now participates as an angel investor, helped to create another network within HSB—the Baylor Investment & Advisory Network (I&A Network).
The I&A Network was founded by Sommers, Matthew East, Jonathan Hamilton and Joseph Mercer in 2013 to train and mentor students interested in careers in investment banking and other high finance fields. Students in the network are placed in mentorships with other students as well as with professionals. The goal is for students to gain valuable skills and receive the necessary support to earn an internship or full-time position.
Mentorships exist on three different levels, Sommers said. The first is student-to-student, where a senior invests in a junior, offering advice on courses and college life as well as internship experiences. The second is described as a junior alumni partnership, which consists of a student partnered with a professional mentor who is generally one to three years out of college. The final connection is the senior mentorship, where the mentor is more than five years out of school. It is here that long-term career goals are discussed.
Each mentorship has a focus on career perspective, but the Christian mission is also a significant part of these connections, Sommers said.
“Wall Street is not a place you see a lot of Christian influence,” he said. “That is somewhere we want to be light and salt.”
RC Renberg, a senior studying Baylor Business Fellows, Finance and Entrepreneurship, joined the I&A Network in his freshman year. Renberg spent his first year and a half in the network studying to get into higher finance and learning the processes.
During his junior year, Renberg competed against 13 other students for internships and was one of three placed through the network. He spent the summer of 2020 interning with the private equity company Main Street Capital in Houston. The internship means Renberg will serve as a student liaison for the I&A Network.
“A lot of the success at the student level stems from alumni that were in the organization,” Renberg said. “Those who reach out are willing to help and really drive the networking piece.”
The network element is more than just professional, Sommers said. Being a part of the I&A Network has created a fellowship among the group. Many of them will meet each other when traveling through their homes or plan trips together. For Sommers, it is even more of a personal bond with some.
“I think there were three or four guys in my wedding,” he said. “There was another three or four that I was in their wedding. It has become a true network of individuals that just like being around each other.”
For more information on the Baylor Angel Network, contact Steven Diedrich at email@example.com.
For more information on the Baylor Investment & Advisory Network, contact RC Renberg at RC_Renberg1@baylor.edu.