Breaking into venture capital right out of an MBA is not an easy task. But, it’s a challenge that Georgetown’s MBA program is meeting head on with a new apprenticeship program at the McDonough School of Business.
The MBA Venture Fellows program, a collaboration between the MBA program and the Georgetown Entrepreneurship Initiative, provides full-time students interested in working in venture capital with a year-long appointment at a local VC firm that replaces the summer internship component of the MBA.
“Georgetown has come up with a creative, innovative way to penetrate a really competitive, hard-to-access industry, providing a great opportunity for both our students and the employers hiring them,” said Eric Young, assistant dean for MBA career services. “As student interests and industries change, we need to be entrepreneurial in our approach to helping our students access a tough industry.”
During last year’s pilot program, four students worked for a VC firm and one had a position at an investment firm. All five have secured similar full-time VC or investment positions after graduation.
“The position that I ended up taking after graduation happened to be at the same firm that I interned with during my Venture Fellows experience,” said 2016 graduate Benjamin Ebenezer. “My entry into venture capitalism would never have been possible without the experience I had with Venture Fellows. It has been a remarkable experience.”
The Venture Fellows Program begins early in the spring semester, when students apply for their positions and interview with participating VC firms. If selected, they begin working 10 hours per week throughout the semester. The apprenticeship turns into a full-time internship during the summer, then returns to shorter hours during the fall semester. Though the program formally concludes in December, several firms have asked students to stay on staff until graduation. Some students also receive academic credit for their work through the MBA tutorial process.
“Students get to learn directly from real investors. They get to be part of the process, making decisions, doing due diligence, making investments, and helping to grow portfolio companies,” said Jeff Reid, founding director of the Georgetown Entrepreneurship Initiative and professor of the practice. “One of the biggest elements is that they are right there in the mix.”
When designing the program, Georgetown McDonough sought feedback from both students and VCs to learn what works best for them. They confirmed that venture capital is a growing area of interest for MBA students. And, they learned that VCs are looking for MBAs to join their team for more than just a summer internship.
“VC firms often told us that short-term summer internships were not valuable enough for the firm,” Reid said. “Once the student learns how the firm works, the engagement is over. So, we designed this as a year-long apprenticeship where the student and firm get to know each other very well, and the student can add more and more value over time as they learn the business.”
For a program like this to succeed, having a thriving VC community in close proximity to the school is essential. Reid has seen similar programs come and go when the local VC community is unable to support them. As Washington, D.C., continues to see a boom in entrepreneurship and venture capital, Georgetown’s McDonough School of Business has become a hub for both.
“Having a fellow was definitely a big boost to our program, to our company, and to our ability to identify good opportunities,” said J.S. Gamble, co-founder and managing principal of Blu Venture Investors and adjunct professor. “We were very happy with the program and how it worked out. It made sense for us and it makes sense for students.”
In addition to the MBA Venture Fellows program, the McDonough School of Business offers a robust array of curricular and extra-curricular activities focused on venture capital that rivals the student-run funds found at other schools. At Georgetown, students have access to mentors, Entrepreneurs in Residence, employers through career treks, and even professors with VC experience. One course – the Seed Investment Practicum – offers a classroom-based exercise with a real-world transaction. The professor asks MBA students to review real companies, conduct due diligence, and narrow the field on behalf of his firm. In the end, the students choose the best company and the firm makes the investment.
At both the MBA and undergraduate levels, Georgetown has found success in the international VCIC championships – winning the global competition in both 2013 and 2015. Aside from the team that advances to the national and international competition, students can participate in the regional events and two rounds of internal competition.
“While only a handful of students participate in the MBA Venture Fellows program, more than 50 MBAs can participate in our other VC competitions or classes each year,” Reid said.