School of Management students came up awfully big at a recent venture capital contest.
Over the weekend, five SOM students won $10,000 and first place at the prestigious Venture Capital Investment Competition, hosted by the University of North Carolina’s Kenan-Flagler Business School. Beating out teams from Wharton and UCLA, the SOM squad brought home the venture capital bacon in its first year participating in this event.
“I’m really, really proud of our students,” SOM professor and team coach David Cromwell said. “This is like winning the NCAAs — or the academic equivalent.”
The competition tested the students’ abilities to role-play as venture capital firms, which are firms that invest in particularly risky businesses. Actual companies searching for financing proposed their business plans to contestants, and students needed to formulate an intelligent analysis of which companies to invest in and which not to.
The five Yale participants — Cebra Graves, Andrea Goldman, Eugene Podkaminer, Oded Sten and Claire Hughes — are all second-year students at the School of Management.
Cromwell, who teaches a venture capital class that features a number of role-playing activities, said the competition was a practical supplement to students’ classroom experience at SOM.
“It was pretty thorough and realistic,” he said.
While the competition hasn’t drawn as much attention as the Final Four, the distinction earned may prove a springboard for six-figure job prospects after graduation.
“This was extremely helpful,” Goldman said. “The judges were accomplished venture capitalists and, as a result of winning this, we had venture capitalists offering us help in searching for positions.”
Cromwell, who used to be president and chief executive officer of J.P. Morgan Capital Corp., agreed that winning this contest could prove a key stepping stone in breaking into the venture capital firm job market.
“If I were a student looking for a job in the venture capital [sector], and this is one of the toughest markets to get a job in after graduation, or for anybody for that matter, I can’t think of anything better than winning a national contest,” Cromwell said. “It couldn’t hurt.”
Both Cromwell and Goldman cited teamwork as a major reason why the SOM team won.
“We used the Yale-SOM way, which is teamwork and consensus,” Goldman said. “We represented a great diversity of skills. We had technology, finance, law, marketing, business analysis, writing, even organizational skills, and building on each person’s talents made a very well-rounded team.”
Goldman said Cromwell’s venture capital class, which ranks among SOM’s most popular class and even includes undergraduates, prepared the competitors well for the contest.
“His class also has us partake in real-life venture capital activities, where we are split up into teams representing the different parties involved in a venture capital deal,” Goldman said. “This teaches you both the [venture capital] skills — the teamwork skills and the negotiating skills.”
SOM professor Ivo Welch, who also teaches an entrepreneurship class, said Cromwell has added much to SOM’s entrepreneurship program.
“He’s provided an enormous energy for entrepreneurship for many years, and carried it almost by himself for a number of years,” he said. “I don’t think we could have asked anyone better.”