Exploring the impact of shifting paradigms at the 2023 Private Equity & Venture Capital Conference
Understanding the future paradigms of private market investment was this year's focus for the Kellogg Private Equity & Venture Capital Conference. Kellogg students Alyona Santana De La Rosa ’23 JD, MBA and Rachit Kansal ’23 Two-Year MBA collaborated with their peers, Kellogg alumni and members from the broader private equity sector to discuss key opportunities and challenges facing the ever-evolving industry. The event welcomed 300 attendees for workshops and discussions around new academic subjects while honing in on pertinent insights to help solve the problems that matter most to the industry.
In attendance was also Francesca Cornelli, dean of the Kellogg School of Management, who witnessed firsthand the curiosity and academic tenacity of conference attendees to look beyond short-term concerns. "Kellogg’s annual Private Equity Venture Capital Conference is a great showcase of the growing student interest in these exciting fields. PE and VC are industries that have seen rapid change in recent years and providing our students the opportunity to hear directly from industry leaders will contribute to their future successes. I am so appreciative of the student organizers, Rachit and Alyona, for putting on such a fantastic event,” expressed the dean.
Learn more about what motivated them to take on a conference leadership role amidst their academic responsibilities, what the experience taught them and how they plan on incorporating lessons into their professional development.
The theme for the 2023 Private Equity and Venture Capital Conference was “Evolving Paradigms in Private Equity and Venture Capital.” What excited you about that topic?
Rachit Kansal (RK): My journey at Kellogg started in 2021 in the middle of a pandemic. Beyond the pandemic, the world has witnessed several extreme events – the Russian invasion, climate catastrophes, faltering economies and unprecedented inflation. The theme reflected this new reality we live in and provided a forum to debate and discuss the consequences of such events in the coming years. Historically, private markets have been essential to spur growth and innovation, especially in hard times. This added to my excitement around the theme; it was an opportunity to learn from the foremost industry experts about technologies, businesses, and decisions that would shape the coming decade.
Alyona Santana de la Rosa (AS): The theme came out of my reflection on my journey to Kellogg and while being a student here, especially one who is interested in pursuing a career in private equity. I observed that the industry is evolving in such a way that there are more female and diverse leaders in positions of influence, there are new business models and sub-asset classes emerging. In that way, evolving paradigms meant for me the broadening of voices around the table as well as changes in what the investment universe looks like.
As students who helped organize the conference, what were your goals for it, or is there something you learned from having helped bring this event to life?
(RK): Bringing the conference to life was surely a fulfilling experience. My goals were three-fold: (1) continue building my professional network (2) contribute back to the Kellogg community (3) learn about navigating cyclical financial cycles. While I did manage to achieve my three targets, a bonus was stepping into the shoes of a general manager. Right from forming the team of 20 to closing the conference, at every step I was exposed to challenges that required planned as well as speedy resolution. I learned about managing functional teams, resolving disagreements, strategizing contingencies, and of course extinguishing last-minute fires! Managing the conference brought to light my key strengths and weaknesses, and thus action items for me to become the Kellogg Leader I aspire to be.
(AS): My goals in organizing the conference were to (1) challenge myself to lead and energize a conference team; (2) have an impact on steering the agenda; and (3) to deepen the fabric of the school’s network across students, alumni and industry participants. One aspect I was especially proud of was how every member of the conference team took the initiative, acted like an owner, and made extra efforts to pull off this incredible event once the grand picture had been framed by Rachit and myself.
What was a key takeaway or memorable moment for you during this year’s conference?
(RK): My most memorable experience was listening to Elizabeth Betten, our private equity keynote speaker. She was truly inspirational and touched on a lot of relevant topics such as recruiting, career moves, etc. More importantly, I really appreciated the fact that she was both narrow and broad at the same time — giving us details about the weeds while keeping true to the big picture. I loved the session by Ricardo Angel, our venture capital keynote speaker due to his focus on investing in frontier technologies such as climate-tech, battery-tech, etc. My key takeaway from this session was an understanding of how to minimize risks as VC and navigate spaces with little knowns about success.
(AS): A memorable moment for me was looking into the audience and seeing more than 300 participants in the audience and feeling the energy of the community around this event. It spoke to me about the power of the Kellogg network, the tremendous excitement for the research and innovation that is occurring within our Global Hub, and the overwhelming desire of alumni to be part of the success of our community.
How did you get involved in the private equity and venture capital (PE/VC) space, and how do you anticipate your career plans to progress in PE/VC?
(RK): My passion is technology; I was a software engineer turned product manager. Prior to Kellogg, I also spent some time exploring early-stage VC investments in India, focusing on cloud and data infrastructure. That was my first foray into Venture Capital – and I absolutely loved it! Talking to and backing entrepreneurs innovating at the fringes of technology energized me. Coming into Kellogg, I got involved in the Entrepreneurship and Venture Capital Club and PE/VC conference in my first year to learn more about the VC scene in the United States. Over the summer, I interned with the Technology Capital (private equity) practice at BCG in San Francisco, getting my first taste of private equity. Subsequently, I interned with Thomvest Ventures via Venture Lab. During my time at Kellogg, I have built a network of friends, peers and alumni who are in these spaces. As of now, my goal is to join the venture capital industry sometime in the future, after having achieved the trifecta of a large network, deep technical expertise, and robust operating experience. I believe this would enable me to become a good venture capitalist as well as a trusted partner to the entrepreneurs I back.
(AS): From a very early point in my career, I was exposed to private markets investing. That experience spans from investing on behalf of family offices, and structuring investments at Goldman Sachs to more traditional private equity roles. I thrive from the intersection between qualitative thinking and quantitative execution that exists within private equity and hope to continue my career in private equity post-Kellogg. It is very rewarding to build a thesis, develop conviction and ultimately realize that conviction through investment. At some point down the road, I see myself potentially launching a strategy that takes into account areas I believe continue to be underserved by capital and talent and where I want an impact to be made.
How has Kellogg supported you in pursuing professional development in the PE/VC industry?
(RK): Kellogg provided me with numerous resources to assist me in achieving my goals in VC – a mix of courses, PE/VC conference, fireside chats and alumni connections. The most important resource for me was the Venture Lab. Firstly, it gave me the opportunity to experience what working at a VC firm is like — day-to-day schedule, key activities, building and maintaining a network, thesis development and a lot more. Secondly, as an international student, it opened doors into the venture ecosystem in the United States. Additionally, I was part of the organizing body of the PE/VC conference for two years; first as a director of content and then as the co-chair. This was great since I got to connect and learn from several Kellogg and industry alumni — in essence build a network for the future!
(AS): Kellogg has provided me with a wonderful support network and several areas standout to me: (1) the peers from whom I learn in the classroom setting; (2) the dynamic Private Equity Club which offers formal and informal training, coaching and preparation opportunities; (3) the Career Management Center which provides tailored coaching and support; (4) faculty who are deeply engaged in the success of their students — professors Mitchell Peterson, Jose Maria Liberti and David Stowell come to mind; and (5) a fantastic, engaged alumni network such as the Private Equity Advisory Council.
What advice would you give to prospective students considering Kellogg for PE/VC?
(RK): I believe Kellogg is an excellent place for students who want to build their careers in Private Equity or Venture Capital. Kellogg provides access to numerous resources, tools and networks along with a plethora of experiential opportunities to battle test your skills before venturing out into the world. Above all, it is the alumni network that is responsive and supportive to nurture the new talent out of Kellogg!
(AS): Kellogg has tremendous momentum in the PE/VC sector and one, that I believe, is differentiated because of the dynamic geography where the school is located, the unique perspectives around industries and consumers that it has developed over time and the unique leadership of Dean Cornelli. Equally, the focuses on collaborative learning and team building are ones that will undoubtedly serve anyone who wants to lead in the PE/VC industry going forward.
Read next: Venture Capital and Private Equity Pathway