By Hayley Bohart (2Y 2022)
“The best way to break into Venture Capital: do the job before you get the job.”
This advice should sound familiar to anyone looking to land a role in VC after business school. I heard it myself when I started my Kellogg MBA journey this past fall, and I wondered how someone might crack this chicken-or-egg conundrum and gain VC experience from outside the industry. When Nick Giometti and Ryan Kieras (both 2Y 2021, and Entrepreneurship & VC Club Presidents) invited me to join their team for the annual Venture Capital Investment Competition (VCIC), I jumped at the opportunity. My background in consumer industry consulting and startups would round out the team’s expertise, and I hoped it would be the opportunity I was looking for to do the job. Six months and Kellogg’s first global title later, I can wholeheartedly say that participating in VCIC has been the single most valuable experience for me in my pursuit of a career in VC. I am honored to have collaborated with truly brilliant teammates, grateful to have learned from Kellogg’s passionate professors, and thrilled to have demonstrated as VCIC champions that Kellogg is an exceptional place to launch a career in VC.
About the Venture Capital Investment Competition (VCIC)
VCIC is the world’s largest venture capital competition hosted annually by UNC Kenan-Flagler Business School and judged by a panel of real VC professionals. 70+ MBA programs from around the globe each send a six-person team to compete in rounds of mock investing that mimic the actual fundraising process. Assuming the identity of a fictional VC firm, each team evaluates real startup investment opportunities by creating financial analyses, performing due diligence and conducting founder interviews. Finally, each team selects one startup to invest in, submits an investment memo and term sheet and presents their recommendation to the judges.
To select their representing teams, most schools host an internal competition; Kellogg’s consisted of three rounds from October to February. Throughout these internal rounds, Kellogg Professors and advisors Pete McNerney, Mitchell Peterson, Jeffrey Eshbach’14, as we well as Mike Haining ’19, a lecturer at Kellogg’s Heizer Center for Private Equity and Venture Capital, hosted workshops around core investing skills like diligence, valuation, term writing and group presentation.
Our team – “Ultra-Violet Ventures” – was selected to represent Kellogg at the Regional Competition, where we competed against five other teams in the Northeast US. After winning our Regional Competition, we progressed to the Global Finals along with the winners of other Regions. Ours is the first Kellogg team ever to win Global Finals, beating out 84 teams from across the world!
Assembling a winning team
A major factor in our success was assembling the right team. Our team consisted of Ryan Kieras (2Y 2021), Nick Giometti (2Y 2021), Daniel Nilsson Sjolander (2Y 2021), Jenieri Cyrus (2Y 2021), Kate Preston (2Y 2022), Rahul Nadkarni (2Y 2022) and me. Ryan and Nick had competed at VCIC the previous year and were determined to return this year and win it all. They recruited classmates to create a team with diverse experiences and industry expertise, ranging from healthcare to Enterprise SaaS and Consumer. They also curated the team with a mix of functional skills to execute across due diligence, valuation, terms sheets and presentation.
Bringing home the global title for Kellogg
In true Kellogg fashion, our team won the Global Title thanks to equal parts knowledge, determination, and collaboration.
Knowledge of venture capital deal structure and terms is, of course, fundamental for the competition. Drawing on learnings from Kellogg courses like ‘Entrepreneurial Finance & Venture Capital’ and workshops held by our advisors, we excelled at selecting the right investment opportunities, valuing the opportunity, and setting appropriate terms. Our team also took care to learn from missteps to sharpen our knowledge throughout the competition. For example, in one round we lost points when we overvalued a startup, relying too much on the numbers. We made sure not to make that mistake again, paying closer attention to our assumptions and remembering VC investing is both an art and a science.
Between the Regional and Global competitions, we proactively asked our Kellogg advisors to facilitate additional practice rounds and provide feedback. When one of our original team members, Jenieri Cyrus, was not able to make it to the Global Finals, our team quickly deliberated and invited Rahul Nadkarni as his replacement. Given the importance of team dynamic in the competition, some teams may have viewed this unexpected roster change as a disadvantage. We saw it as an opportunity to revisit the roles and responsibilities of each team member, aiming to strengthen the team dynamic. We were determined not to let external forces decide the outcome.
Collaboration is core to the Kellogg experience, and our VCIC experience was no exception. From team happy hours early on to discuss each other’s goals, to second year teaching moments over a cap table, to late night laughs and banter the night before the competition, there was no shortage of collaboration and fun. I truly cherish the friendships and connections I have made through the competition, especially with my second-year teammates who will be graduating Kellogg soon and launching their own VC careers.
Overall, VCIC was a tremendously rewarding experience and I recommend it to any MBA student interested in VC. I look forward to competing again next year and defending the Kellogg title!