Students from Georgetown’s McDonough School of Business have seen success in this year’s Venture Capital Investment Competition (VCIC) at both the undergraduate and graduate levels. The two teams won their respective Mid-Atlantic regional rounds and will advance to finals this spring.
VCIC simulates the venture capital industry in a tournament-style competition. Students take on the role of venture capitalists and choose from a field of two or three real startups from which to invest their hypothetical dollars. Professional venture capitalists judge teams based on their investment decision and their ability to defend it, and teams advance through several rounds with cash prizes for the winning teams.
Both teams put in hours of work preparing for their respective competitions. Shannon Gravette (MBA’19) said that his team of six MBAs had to advance through two internal rounds at Georgetown before being selected to represent the school, then trained weekly with a coach before the tournament.
In the end, the team’s “diversity of talent,” according to Gravette, allowed them to advance. Members of the team had backgrounds in venture capital, finance, electrical engineering, and growth strategy. Two students, Blake Pennington (MBA’19) and Justin Timlin (MBA’19), previously had worked in venture capital and used data given by the startups to run financial models developed from their experience to present detailed financial backing for their decision. Gravette said that their team was the only one with appendices with real figures to justify their investment choice.
Teamwork also was key to their success. All members contributed in some way to the final “term sheet,” or the deal they were offering to the startup they chose.
Estelle Spanneut (B’21) emphasized the importance of VCIC as an educational opportunity. “Everyone in our team is highly involved in the Georgetown Entrepreneurship community, so everything that we learned during the undergraduate VCIC competition about analyzing startups is directly applicable to the startups that we currently work with,” she said of her team of five undergraduates.
Teams are encouraged to network with the venture capitalist judges after the competition to compare and contrast their decision-making processes. “Getting feedback from the VCs during and after the competition helped us better understand the process, and after the competition we all had a better idea of what it was like to be in venture capital,” Spanneut added.
Andrew Zhang (B’20) also noted the educational resources available to the undergraduate team. Undergraduates shadowed the MBAs and had access to coaches Eric Ellsworth (MBA’15) and Sara Zulkosky (MBA’14), members of the winning VCIC graduate teams in 2015 and 2013, respectively.
Going into the final round, both teams are optimistic about their chances. Gravette said he was confident in his team’s ability to work together, which they demonstrated at the regional round. Zhang also credited the regional round with providing the team with some momentum. “Winning mid-Atlantic regionals was definitely a confidence booster,” he said.
Still, Zhang was quick to add that their work is not over. “We’re definitely going to do some more prep work, some more research into the industry.”