The Dakota Venture Group, a newly-formed venture capital investment fund sponsored by the University of North Dakota and run exclusively by students, is looking for private companies to invest in that exhibit high-growth potential in North Dakota and Minnesota. The group is especially interested in those companies started by students and alumni of the University of North Dakota.

The group is managed by five students who are enrolled in the university's business programs -- and these students handle all aspects of the investing process, including negotiating deals, completing due diligence, and making the final investment decision. In addition to providing business students with a hands-on experience in the field of venture capital and angel investing, the program helps the state's business owners get connected to local investors who have an interest in fostering statewide economic growth.

The Dakota Venture Group reviews business plans on a weekly basis. For more information or to submit a business plan, visit

Protect Your Network

For business owners intent on keeping the information superhighway moving at a brisk pace, has added a new service designed to address service issues before full-blown data network outages occurs.

With the Monitoring and Alert service, which is bundled with the Cary, N.C.-based company's Dedicated Internet Package, customers receive an alert via e-mail or pager whenever their router or other data device is approaching a performance threshold. Once customers have been notified of a potential problem, they can access a Web-based portal that identifies exactly where the service disruptions are. Customers can also access the reporting portal at any time to view the performance of their circuit and router, and monitor potential issues.

"We recognize that businesses are relying on their Internet access more than ever before and we have answered their call to make both the purchase and maintenance of those data lines as easy and efficient as possible," Steve Lacoff, vice president of product management and marketing at, said in a statement. is bundling its Monitoring and Alert service at no extra cost. Internet service bundles start at $309 a month. For more information, visit

Health Insurance in Aisle 5

Costco is now offering small-business health insurance plans for customers in five states on the West Coast -- Nevada, Oregon, Hawaii, Washington and California. The program is available to Costco executive members -- the premium level of membership offered at $100 a year -- and was designed to cater to small-business owners and employees who cannot afford coverage.

According to the company's website, Costco Insurance Agency has teamed with insurance carriers in all five states to offer both health and dental benefits to customers at competitive rates and with lower deductibles. Insurance offers and plans vary by state depending on which insurance company Costco is partnered with. The company is looking into expanding the program into other states as well.