If there’s going to be a burgeoning of entrepreneurship groups and initiatives to foster the cultivation of student ideas on campuses across the country, then there soon becomes a need for a group of students who are dedicated to learning how to select and allocate money to home run ideas. The Virginia Venture Fund (VVF), a student-run venture capital group at theUniversity of Virginia, was created in the fall of 2012 as a way to direct actual capital into student startups and serves to both support student businesses and teach undergraduates about venture capital in real life scenarios. The group has a four-point strategy:
- Teach undergraduate and graduate students about VC Investing through a workshop series taught by industry professionals and professors
- Work with VC firms to conduct due diligence on potential investments and assist with market research and deal sourcing
- Compete against and Collaborate with other top universities
- Work with and Invest in UVA student startups
Being one of the first student-run venture funds in the country, this unique and successful group at the University has become a great way for students interested in venture capital to learn from industry professionals, work alongside top VC firms, evaluate real startup ideas, and actually invest capital. On the other side, this group provides a service for student entrepreneurs by offering seed capital, free market research, in-depth strategic analysis from VVF members working directly with student startups, and a mentor network of around a hundred alumni and their partners in investing.
Andrew Hayden (UVA 2015), the current President of the Virginia Venture Fund, co-founded the organization with Matt Brown (UVA 2015). Hayden was originally interested in venture capital because he had heard about early stage companies from his mother, who works for a venture-backed medical device company, and his uncle, who is a top venture capital and startup lawyer in Boston. Upon entering UVA, Hayden and Brown were first-year roommates. Together, they attended meetings and speaker events that were hosted by theEntrepreneurship Group at McIntire (whose name has now been changed to the more inclusive Entrepreneurship Group). According to Hayden, they realized that there was an immediate need for a group “dedicated to teaching students about the private investing side, particularly at the venture capital stage.”
At the beginning of their second semester, they researched and talked with other student-run funds around the country in order to formulate a plan for creating one at the University of Virginia. Some special considerations they had to account for were how the fund and the University would be financially and organizationally affiliated. After finals in the spring of 2012, they spent a few days to meet with UVIMCO, the UVA Alumni Association, UVA Innovation, local private equity firms, the Darden Innovation Lab Incubator, and Deans at theMcIntire School of Commerce to help refine their idea. They then spent the summer further developing the idea. They formulated a mission, crafted the organization’s bylaws, and even spent a week in New York City meeting with alumni who work in private investing. After confirming at that the McIntire School of Commerce at UVA was a “particularly good fit” for the Virginia Venture Fund, they set up a McIntire Foundation Endowment account to hold the operational and investment funds.
After being approved as a provisional organization in the fall of 2012, they hit the ground running. While working with several outside venture capital funds on due diligence projects, the group also had a hand in screening McIntire entries to the UVA 2012 Entrepreneurship Cup. They placed highly in several competitions—they won second place at the Darden Venture Capital Investment (VCIC) Competition and second place in Chapel Hill at the National Undergraduate VCIC. In January 2013, they raised $28,000 from alumni to fund operations and investments. The group hosted two pitch events in the style of Shark Tank to give an opportunity for entrepreneurial students to win seed funding from the VVF investment board, comprised totally of students. VVF also was a co-investor in the 2013 Galant Challenge, a “live-fire $250,000 pitch event, where UVA alumni angel investors looked to invest in the top student startup at the University.” The VVF team both sourced three of the four Galant Challenge finalists and had a seat on the investment board of the competition. They were granted full status in Fall 2013 as an organization at the McIntire School of Commerce, and worked further to expand and improve their programming. They were awarded a Parents Committee Grant, and their membership grew to include 100 general members and 30 associates and analysts. They added several new projects, such as working with a 3D printing VC firm and two UVA startups they supported: Frameri and LearnShark. The two co-founders were invited to sit in on a Virginia Active Angel Network investment dinner and were the first undergraduates to be invited to participate in the Darden VC Boot Camp in the boot camp’s ten-year history.
CollegeStartup.org, Alex Zorychta