All In: Venture Devils

All In: Venture Devils

"Venture Devils provides an opportunity for all ASU student, faculty, staff, and community-based entrepreneurs to practice all 3Cs of EM via the development of a non-profit, more-than-profit, or for-profit enterprise."

- Brent Sebold, Director of E+I @ Fulton Schools of Engineering

Case at a glance

Integration goals

To define the entrepreneurial mindset for those who are already practicing the 3Cs at a high level without their recognizing that they're doing so, as well as finding the best way to support venture founders' intrinsic ability to leverage the 3Cs 

Materials affected

FSE 494/598 syllabus and EM module, which includes approximately 40 EM resources; program orientation presentation; diagram of Venture Devil funding tracks; and questions for student interviews

Lessons learned

It helps to have a framework for practicing venture development.


While evangelizing the entrepreneurial mindset (EM) falls mostly to curricular and co-curricular efforts, EM does provide a framework for venture development at ASU, particularly through Venture Devils, which supports all ASU student, faculty, staff, and community-based entrepreneurs. Venture Devils was created in 2016, coincidentally launching at same time that ASU initially became involved with KEEN. 

Functioning as a meta-cohort for practicing entrepreneurs, Venture Devils is for all types of ventures at any developmental stage (e.g., pre-revenue, in revenue, capitalized, etc.) and is designed to streamline access to mentorship, funding, and workspace. More specifically, the program aims to catalyze the entrepreneurial success of venture founders by connecting them with Venture Mentors who provide regular, ongoing support. This dedicated mentorship is paired with an optional online Venture Devils course (FSE 494/598), which is designed to challenge, monitor, and advance the venture development process. As part of Venture Devils, founders may receive direct access to ASU funding opportunities and venture development spaces. ASU now has more than 300 Venture Devils (80% student, 10% faculty, 10% community). The program is supported by ASU’s Office of Entrepreneurship & Innovation and offers university-wide programming and support at ASU’s SkySong Innovation Center. 

Throughout 2017, while exploring ways to increase integration of EM, ASU also undertook a major redesign of its venture funding model, transforming it from having siloed funding sources to having integrated funding tracks, making the model easier to understand, even intuitive. As a result of the model’s redesign, all funding tracks are now part of  the Venture Devils program, including ASU Civil Engineering alumni Tom Prescott's eSeed Challenge, an ASU-wide funding source that combines mentorship and training. Most funding tracks are large grants to small numbers, whereas eSeed is small grants to large numbers. Tom Prescott refers to eSeed as his “failure fund,” in that he provides funding for founders to try out their ideas and somewhat likely fail, as he believes that failure is good for engineers, who typically don’t fail, at least academically.

Throughout the Venture Devils program, each founder is expected to demonstrate that they are able to:

  • Learn, synthesize, and share current methods, tactics, and strategies for launching and developing a new venture.
  • Iteratively develop and present an evidence-based pitch deck and an executive summary that incorporate “fact-based” and “data-driven” proof that is now required to ensure transparency, authenticity, and traction for today’s entrepreneurs.
  • Develop professional skills and habits as it relates to working with mentors, partners, and other key members of a venture development network.

Venture Devils Demo Day is the program’s bi-annual culminating experience for most participants. Altogether, there are several funding tracks with the underlying aim of providing the right money, for the right startups, at the right time. Several of the available startup funding track awards are as follows:

Appropriately, the immediate offering for Venture Devils participants when they enter the program now, post integration, is EM modules, both videos produced by KEEN and FSE’s own “EM 101.”

Integration details

A summary of the integration details by year follows.


  • Because the world of entrepreneurship at ASU is so grounded in business, and individuals often have a difficult time separating it from that to address creating value more broadly, our initial effort focused on integrating EM into the program’s vernacular, essentially introducing EM terminology (3Cs) to the meta-cohort of practicing entrepreneurs. The expectation is, if you're in the meta-cohort (the Venture Devils program), you already have the EM and are or have a plan to create value. Given that the principles of EM are intrinsic, Venture Devils helps to put a label on or define what the meta-cohort might otherwise label or define simply as entrepreneurship. 
  • During this time, we also created and piloted FSE 494/598, then a new 7.5 week, fully online venture development support course, piloting it first with six students in the Fall A session and then another 51 students in the Fall B session. This course was designed from the ground up to include EM/3Cs lectures, activities, and resources, as well as to address EM in its learning outcomes (however, students are not tested on the EM content). Our core tasks were developing the syllabus, modules, and orientation materials, and curating the EM resources.

2017 -2018

  • Produced new videos that address EM
  • Added EM content to participant onboarding (EM module, KEEN and FSE EM 101 videos)
  • Added EM to program documentation and collateral

NOTE: Supporting resources for this case study can be found within its companion KEEN card (link below), which is also where the community can discuss the case and its broader topic.

Integration outcomes

The results of this EM integration effort have not yet been formally measured, but anecdotal feedback has been very positive, and we do think of ourselves as being more than halfway to where we would like to get with EM integration. Still, we keep seeing even more potential, and we will continue iterating on our efforts, especially once more formal evaluation results are available.

Future plans

Our future plans are guided by the motto, “Just keep on truckin’!” Put another way, now that the funding track model has been revised, we can focus on aspirations for increased EM focus, building on eSeed strategies. Research studies reveal that 10% of the population has EM naturally or is willing to opt into the mindset, and we’re ready to reach as many members of the population as possible.


ASU's university-wide valuing of entrepreneurship as a design imperative, with top-down buy-in and even use of the term “entrepreneurial mindset,” has been an advantage for this integration effort just as it has throughout FSE’s entire EM integration initiative. However, redefining entrepreneurship in what is perceived as a very forceful way with this meta-cohort is itself a challenge.

The greatest challenge, however, is that Venture Devils is a very complex program that comprises three very broad networks of activity (mentor, funding, spaces) and has a sizable management team (four full-time employees interact with the meta-cohort within task-oriented scopes of work). That said, once the program is set up to repeat and scale, integrating EM is relatively simple--developing/revising the syllabus, presentations, and supporting materials and then maintaining consistency of message and capitalizing on awareness.