Technical.ly: How A-Level Capital’s first deal was done

By: Stephen Babcock, Technical.ly Baltimore

Yet Analytics’ seven-figure seed round made a splash, especially as the final $1.3 million figure represented was far higher than the $750,000 that the data analytics company initially set out to raise.

Of the investors lining up behind the company, A-Level Capital doesn’t have the most eye-catching investment at $10,000. But it’s a milestone for the firm, nonetheless. The Yet deal marked the first for the six-month-old venture fund that is run by students at Johns Hopkins University.

It took a sleepless two-day sprint to finish the deal, A-Level founding partner Corey Li told Technical.ly. Li was satisfied with the group’s first check. In the end, the vote among A-Level’s student partners was unanimous.

“I believe they will be super successful,” Li said of Yet, which is commercializing Department of Defense-developed technology that makes different types of job training data interoperable.

The seeds of the deal were planted when Li met Yet Analytics CMO Margaret Roth at a stakeholders breakfast during Baltimore Innovation Week 2015. Upon meeting Li, Roth was interested in grabbing coffee and learning more about A-Level. Along with completing her bachelor’s and master’s work at the university, Yet CEO Shelly Blake-Plock completed his master’s work there, too, and fellow cofounder Rose Burt studied at the Peabody Institute, which is also run by Hopkins.

After the coffee meeting and more follow-up, Roth and Li realized there could be a deal. Yet was looking to finish its seed round, and A-Level had its first money available for investments.

“The timing just worked out really well,” Roth said.

The check took more than a handshake, however, as Li and the A-Level team set out to due diligence. Over several weeks, one team of several students tackled a market analysis, and evaluated UX. Yet also pitched the company to the 15-member team. After discussion, the partners voted on the deal. A-Level’s rules dictate that the deal can go forward with 70 percent of the vote, but in this case the decision was unanimous. The deal then had to be approved by the A-Level advisory board for a vote, which includes cofounders Elizabeth Galbut and Demi Obayomi, and investors in A-Level’s fund like Dave McClure of 500 Startups.

Read more about A-Level Capital

Li said A-Level will typically look to fund companies at roughly the $10,000-$25,000 level. With student-run startups, they believe that amount of capital will provide enough to get operations off the ground. The Yet deal shows they aren’t limited to student-run companies, though. Li said it accents the other side of A-Level’s offerings: relationships.

“Besides capital there is also human capital, and all the other resources and networks we provide them,” Li, who recently finished his bachelor’s degree in math and economics at the university, said. (Li is currently working on a master’s degree in math.) In addition to the money, the two entities are also looking at internships with Yet for Hopkins students.

In that sense, the deal provides the three Yet cofounders a way to be looped in at the university where they already have close ties. Roth also noted that A-Level is helping students learn more about entrepreneurship in school.

“It’s creating a really authentic experience for students by giving them the opportunity to learn about investment and entrepreneurship cycle, and to be able to meet entrepreneurs and have that access in a way they’ve never had it before,” she said.