With all the Championship hoopla of late, wouldn’t it be fun if there was a monster venture fund bracket and a battle to the death to crown a venture capital Champion? Well, there is, kind of.
UNC’s Venture Capital Investment Competition includes over 50 student venture capital teams from across the world. They battle through multiple wildcard, regional and even international brackets to reach the finals at my alma mater in Chapel Hill, NC. Congratulations to 2006 Finalists Washington, NYU, Michigan, Colorado, Cambridge, Duke, Harvard, MIT and USC. I was lucky enough to judge the Finals this past weekend and the level of venture talent is impressive — virtual pros compared to when a small group of us started the competition at UNC in 1998.
Turning the tables on the typical business plan competition, VCIC student teams operate as a virtual venture fund. They review multiple business plans and pitches by real entrepreneurs and businesses pursuing funding — thanks to 2006 entrepreneur presenters from Broadwick, Advanced Liquid Logic, DateApp, Cary Pharmaceuticals and S-Bond Technologies. They then perform due diligence with entrepreneur grilling and online research over the next 24 hours. Finally, they decide who they would back, who they wouldn’t, draft termsheets and present why they made the decisions they did — typically pulling an all-nighter in the process.
This year’s lineup of judges was impressive as well, including experts from Grove Street, Parish, Synecor, , Meritage, Firelake, RTV, SV Life Sciences, Atlas, Aurora, Mohr Davidow, Kleiner, L Capital, Piper, Kauffman, Bluegrass, PE Week Wire (See Dan Primack’s VCIC recap here), and one nut from Inflexion. Can you believe students actually volunteered to be tortured by Q&A from this crew?
In the end the University of Washington came away with the biggest check (and the bar tab later). Their team members and victory have already been noted at John Cook’s Venture Blog at the Seattle Post-Intelligencer. The whole UW team did a stellar job and I give presentation/leadership kudos to Rebecca Lovell — fantastic presence and entrepreneur rapport.
Speaking of rapport, that was a key item that separated the teams walking away with checks from those walking away with just a great experience. Although business school can prepare you for the numbers and analysis of business opportunities, it takes time and experience to appreciate how much of this business (and all business) boils down to people. A smart, young investor who finds passionate entrepreneurs and builds relationships before building spreadsheets has a promising future in the venture business.
Thanks to Patrick Vernon and the whole VCIC team at UNC’s Center for Entrepreneurial Studies for running a great event. If you’re a student, entrepreneur or venture capitalist, I’d encourage you to learn more about UNC’s VCIC — the launchpad for tomorrow’s venture capital leaders…