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Students gain first-hand knowledge about venture capital

Students compete in VCIC

There is no education like experience. And thanks to global Venture Capital Investment Competition (VCIC), students get it at UNC Kenan-Flagler.

“Students play the role of a managing director at a venture firm, structuring term sheets, building a cap chart, and negotiating with founders,” says Hubie Haywood (MD/MBA ’20), a member of UNC Kenan-Flagler’s VCIC team in 2019. “For anyone interested in venture capital or startups, VCIC is the perfect way to gain the experience that no class can provide.”

That is the intention of Patrick Vernon (MBA ’03), clinical associate professor of strategy and entrepreneurship and director of venture initiatives at UNC Kenan-Flagler. He began running the competition while earning his MBA. Created in 1998 for MBAs to learn about venture funding through five events in the U.S., VCIC has evolved into a network of 50 events in 13 countries that includes 78 MBA programs and serves more than 1,200 students annually.

“VCIC is valuable to students because it’s real people doing real things,” says Vernon. “Venture capital is a unique industry, one that students don’t easily get access to. Having real startups pitching to students and offering students access to venture capitalists makes for a dynamic and intellectually stimulating event.”

The tables are turned, with students playing the role of venture capitalists (VCs) and real-world startups presenting to the “VCs.” The competition judges are venture capitalists who come to VCIC to reconnect with their alma maters, network with other VCs and get a peek at early stage startups as well as bright students.

One of those bright students is Nelson Fleming (MBA ’20). With a background in the construction industry, he had no real exposure to startups or venture capital prior to VCIC. “Since being introduced to venture capital and entrepreneurship through the competition, I landed an internship with a venture capital firm in the area and plan to pursue venture capital as a career at some point in the near future,” says Fleming. “It has been by far and away the most valuable learning experience I’ve had to-date as an MBA student.”

In 2014, Vernon added an annual undergraduate VCIC and 34 U.S. universities competed in 2019. “There is a lot of demand for undergraduate entrepreneurship classes,” he says. “And while many schools now have entrepreneurship majors, very few have specialized classes in venture capital.” For many undergraduate students, VCIC is the only place they can learn about venture capital. “VCIC offers undergraduates the ability to learn about what is happening today in venture capital through very practical, real experience,” says Vernon.

Sunny Sun (BSBA ’20) competed on UNC’s 2019 team. “VCIC gives a unique and hands-on chance to understand entrepreneurial finance but all transferrable skillsets required are coming from classes I took at UNC Kenan-Flagler, the fantastic guest speakers our professors brought from industry, and essentially all of the best help I received from my professors,” she says.

While Sun’s focus is on investment banking and investment management, she says, “VCIC gives me a new lens to evaluate business through an entrepreneurial mindset.”

Haywood developed an appreciation for venture capital and the role it plays in commerce.  “As someone with little experience in the startup and venture finance world, the VCIC competition offered me and my teammates a crash course,” he says. “We learned on the fly, building a bit more knowledge with every deck, pitch, practice session and round of the competition. Even without taking a single class, I now feel as though I could intern at a venture capital firm because of VCIC.”