MBA Course Connects Students to Local Venture Capitalists
Arun Gupta, adjunct professor at Georgetown’s McDonough School of Business, spent the last several weeks attempting to demystify entrepreneurship as a career path by connecting MBA candidates with professionals in the field throughout his course, Entrepreneurial Finance and Venture Capital. Gupta divided the class into nine teams of four to five students and paired each team with a venture capital firm, a CEO, and a venture capital lawyer in his network. Each professional spent 90 minutes with the student team to talk through real-life questions about launching a startup.
Gupta hoped that connecting his students to local professionals would personalize the experience and would help them learn that entrepreneurship is accessible.
“What we tried to do differently this year was highlight how the various stakeholders in this ecosystem are all connected,” said Gupta, who also is a venture partner in Columbia Capital, focusing on federal and cyber IT services investments. “The goal was to introduce students to local professionals in the field, allow them to ask direct questions, and jumpstart their own networks.”
Students were excited by Gupta’s approach. Vinayak Ishwar (MBA’18) registered for the course knowing a venture capitalist would be at the front of the classroom. “I often try to find professors who are doing what I want to learn and then study how they accomplished that,” he said. Vishal Shah (MBA’18), who took the course last year and was one of two teaching assistants this semester, agreed that there was an added value to having that on-the-ground perspective.
At the end of the course, the teams presented their insights as a capstone to what they had learned through the class. Gupta gave the teams few guidelines on what to present, a tactic that rewarded the class with nine different approaches. One group focused on health care, another on VCs in non-urban markets, and another on the psychology of entrepreneurship.
“I wanted to widen the aperture around the definition and lower the bar for perception of risk,” Gupta explained. “Entrepreneurship doesn’t necessarily mean starting a company. It’s really about developing skills and a network.”
Through these interactions, Gupta added, the university is deepening its connections to the local entrepreneurial market. A number of the companies are located within 10 minutes of Georgetown but never felt affiliated with the university. Once they met with these teams, they realized they could be doing more with Georgetown students. “More follow-up is next, in terms of making the relationship more sustainable,” Gupta said.
Mary Fay (MBA ’18) would like to see even more courses replicate the course’s experiential learning component. Blake Pennington (MBA ’19) agreed. “The people we got to meet would have been very difficult to meet in the real world,” he said. “I can’t overstate how powerful that network is.”