09 Feb VC Contest Winners Learn from Experience
Madison, Wis. — Pulling an all-nighter has never been so profitable for a team of University of Wisconsin-Madison Business School students who won a venture capital (VC) competition Saturday. Chris Lang, Gail McGuire and Paul Pucci, all MBA students, secured the win from a panel of real-world venture capitalists and a $100 cash prize.
The new competition, called Venture Capital Spring Training, is designed to put students in the role of venture capitalists and compliments the business school’s Weinert Center for Entrepreneurship MBA curriculum.
“[The competition] goes along with their coursework … [second-year MBA students] focus on venture capital and venture capital-fundable businesses. It forces them to understand what it’s all about,” said Larry Cox, director of the Weinert Center. “It’s a great experience … there’s nothing quite like having to stand in front of experts in the field … it’s a great learning experience.”
Most of the 14 participating students, comprising four teams, stayed up all Friday night examining the plans of two local businesses seeking VC funding, Lucigen and Precision Information. The teams were charged with deciding how, and at what level, they would recommend funding of at least one of the companies to a panel of venture capitalist judges. The teams received plans from the business at 7 p.m. Friday and heard 15-minute pitches from them 9 a.m. Saturday morning. The student teams then had until Saturday afternoon to present their finance plan to the panel. The teams were judged on their ability to work together, their understanding of VC and their presentation of their business.
“We experienced how venture capital works … by speaking with real venture capitalists,” Pucci said.
The composition of the winning team was unique, which is characteristic of the entrepreneurship program, said Cox. Lang is currently working on a PhD in philosophy, McGuire is an attorney and Pucci received his undergraduate degree in biochemistry. Combining those specialties may have given the team a competitive edge.
“It’s characteristic of the program, it attracts a diverse group … I don’t know if that made a difference [for the winning team] but it probably did,” he added.
According to Cox, the competition was “intramural” and designed to prepare for a regional venture capital competition in March and nationals in April.