March 2, 2017

BU's VCIC MBA Team Wins Northeast Regional Competition: An Interview With Kenneth Hall

Another week has passed and that means it's time for another Questrom Blog Series.  Luckily for me, interesting things keep happening every week and the blog is able to stay fresh.  This week is no exception and I'm pleased to highlight a good pal of mine, Ken Hall, as he explains how his VCIC team was able to come out on top in the Northeast Regional competition.

1. For those that don't know, what is the VCIC and what drew you to the competition?

The Venture Capital Investment Competition (VCIC) is the world’s largest venture capital competition and essentially puts students in the shoes of a venture capital firm. In the MBA division, there are 75 schools competing through 12 regional competitions for a spot in the global finals. The teams receive the decks of 3 actual startup companies that are raising capital (typically Seed or Series A startups) and have roughly 36 hours for due diligence before the morning of the competition. On the day of the competition, teams meet with each entrepreneur for Q&A, decide which firm they’re investing in, prepare a term sheet for the investment, present their investment decision to the judges, and, if selected, negotiate with the entrepreneurs. What drew me to the competition was just a passion for VC, the amount of learning in such a short time period, and, yes, being competitive. I’ve interned or consulted for a handful of VCs, but I feel like this has been the best learning experience I’ve had in the industry. Leading up to the competition, we were meeting with leaders in the industry and experienced partners in venture. And then, in 48 hours, you’re gaining experience and demonstrating understanding in valuations, term sheets, market research, due diligence, negotiations, presenting to partners, building rapport, and more. It was like drinking from a fire hose.

2. Congratulations on the win! What are the next steps for team BU going forward?

Right after the competition, we started mentoring the undergrad team at BU, and they wound up winning their regional as well. So BU’s undergraduate team will be competing in the global finals at the end of March, and our MBA team will be 1 of 12 schools competing in the global finals April 7-8 at UNC Kenan-Flagler; we will be competing against 6 other business schools from the United States and 5 other business schools throughout the world (India, Europe South, Europe North, Asia East, and Asia Southeast). Over the next month, we will be getting feedback from the judges from the regional competition (who are mostly partners of VCs in Connecticut and New York), meeting with a few advisors, and revising our process for the global finals. At the global finals, we will be reviewing 5 startups in the same 36-hour window and competing against the top business schools in the world, so we need to be sure we are at our absolute best. It’s going to be tough, but I think we have a very good shot at winning the whole thing.

3. As a full-time student, how did you find the time to make this all happen?

Honestly, I think learning outside the classroom is the most important part of business school. Questrom gives everyone the platform to show their capabilities and learn not only through classes, but also through competitions and projects. I think those are the best opportunities for learning because the school is giving us real-world experience and building our strengths as leaders and teammates. I obviously don’t neglect classes, but I do make these critical events more of a priority when they happen just because of the opportunities for learning in so many different ways.

4. You beat out MBA teams from Columbia, Harvard, Wharton, and Cornell - what do you think this does for BU's reputation in competitions like this?

Yeah, being matched up against four Ivy League business schools was pretty intimidating, but we were really confident going into the competition because we worked really, really hard and had a great group of mentors. I think wins like this can only help Questrom’s reputation – our students are just as smart and talented as those at the top 5-10 business schools. Our team came out of the toughest regional in the world, and BU’s team for the UAB Health Administration Competition just came in first in the country. It seems like every week we win something.

5. What advice would you give to students that may be interested in participating in VCIC next year? Thanks!

My advice would be to start learning now. There are so many resources available to help people learn about venture capital so easily, from books (“Venture Deals”) to podcasts (“Full Ratchet” and “20 Minute VC”) to blogs (“Feld Thoughts”). You can literally learn about everything important in a VC term sheet from a thought leader in the industry in 45-minutes for $0 on a podcast. The sooner that you learn the basics, the longer you have to internalize them. But my advice overall would be for everyone to just get involved and try to make the VCIC team. At BU, we have an internal competition to select the team for the regional. If you are not selected, you still learn a lot about startups and venture capital. If you are selected, you obviously are a part of another great experience and get to network with some incredible people in the world of venture.

6.  Anything else?

I have to mention everyone on our team: Jon Glendinning, Jon Rosen, Ali Cook, Ian Griffith, and Mayank Jaiswal. Everyone really crushed it during the competition and came together. The day before the competition, we were working out of a classroom for like 10 or 11 hours, and it was just wild to see everything come together. If one person didn’t give it 100%, we wouldn’t have beat all of those great schools. But everyone on the team did, and we crushed it. Also, I have to give a shoutout to our advisors and mentors…Our advisors were Minde Kornfeld and Greg Stoller, and he really leads the organization of this and I’m pretty sure he doesn’t sleep. We also had a ton of help from last year’s team, especially Ben Courtney and John Fusi. And then we had some great help from entrepreneurs who practiced with us and leaders in VC like Don Nelson and John Murphy. So yeah, thanks to everyone and thanks to you for having me. I’m looking forward to talking with you in April after we win 1st in the global finals! Thank you!


*Before I sign off, I want to let you all know that we are all heading on Spring Break next week and it will be a barren wasteland over on this blog.  But thank you for following thus far!*

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