A student-run stock exchange that exists online and in the classroom is among a number of simulated companies being formed in high schools across the United States. The exchange is a virtual enterprise that teaches the complexities of business and the latest technology behind the financial markets. 

More than two dozen students operate the company, called InVEst. They are part of a business class at San Juan Hills High School in San Juan Capistrano, California.

“I think learning from books and notes and lectures is important,” said teacher Jeremy Wooten. "But this class gives you the opportunity to actually go out and perform.” 

Revenue projections show a net profit of $700,000 by the end of April, in simulated currency, of course.

The business class was created in association with a nonprofit organization called Virtual Enterprises International, which sponsors hands-on business projects in more than 400 high schools around the United States.

Each student performs a job in the company, and many attend simulated trade shows around the the United States.Some will present their business plan in New York in mid-April at a student summit with other virtual businesses.

The student-run enterprises range from furniture companies to travel agencies, and trade in a virtual marketplace in more than 40 countries, complete with an online banking system.

This virtual company is a stock exchange that lists other student projects and allows them to raise funds through public offerings.It uses a cryptocurrency and blockchain technology, just like the big financial players.

Students are learning how to trade stocks, said Jaden Bryan, 17, the class computer whiz and InVEst chief operating officer. They are being exposed “to blockchain technology, which is a type of finance management that they will face in the future,” he said.

Blockchain is an encrypted online system that makes cryptocurrencies like Bitcoin possible.

At this and other high schools, students spend a year “developing a business plan, implementing their business model, developing websites and participating in trade shows,” said Nick Chapman, president of Virtual Enterprises International.The nonprofit educational organization guides teachers and students through the process.

Like Wall Street stock exchanges, the company charges virtual fees for stock listings and trades, said Chief Financial Officer James Wale. Students must match real-world rates to make theirs competitive.

“We also have to look up things such as insurance policies, such as advertising,” Wale said. “We have to pay the monthly budgets, so we’re able to make sure that our money is being put out there efficiently,”he said.

So far, it’s all working.

Students face all the problems of running a real business, said Cole Lowey, 18, chief marketing officer for InVEst.“We have 26 employees, which is a lot for a brand new company, and so that’s obviously been a big challenge for us,” he said.

With a big job title comes responsibility, said Emily Wale, InVEst chief executive officer.

“It’s hard to be the CEO and have everyone look up to you and expect great things from you,” she said. “Especially when I am so young, and I have too little experience of the business world.So, it’s been a little bit of a challenge to come into class and have a plan ready for everyone every day,” she explained.

Chief Operating Officer Jaden Bryan said the time spent on the job — that is, the classroom — is exciting.

“I’ve learned so much about a real-life job — what it’s like to come into work and have tasks and get them done without somebody constantly being on your tail,” he said.“And if they don’t get done, then the company doesn’t succeed,” he explained.

Simulated companies like this teach “collaboration, teamwork, leadership,” said Nick Chapman of Virtual Enterprises International.He said these students came up with their own business plan,“and they’re driving how we innovate. And they’re driving what the future of business is looking like.”