November 5, 2013

MBA students shine in venture capital competition


After earning the title of the best graduate student venture capitalists on campus, five Fisher MBA students are headed to Austin, Texas, for the next round of the worldwide Venture Capital Investment Competition (VCIC).

Burouj Ajlouni, Michelle Salsberry, Anirud Varadraj, Rashid Mammadov, and Ria Chakrovorty teamed up for the competition in Gerlach Hall in which they and five other teams -- playing the role of venture capital firms -- evaluated entrepreneurial pitches from real-world companies Nanofiber Solutions and Brand Thunder. Over a period of two days, the students analyzed business plans, watched pitches, and interviewed each entrepreneur before selecting one and negotiating a term sheet.

“Working with real businesses, this resembled a real-life situation rather than an academic experience,” Mammadov said. “That’s where the value is. We got the chance to talk to the venture capitalists, and they were trying to guide us in how we can improve and how we can be more effective in what we did.”

The teams were then judged by representatives from nine actual venture capital firms that evaluated the students’ performance throughout the decision-making process, including assessment of risk, knowledge of the venture capital process, communications skills, and teamwork.

“It’s invaluable to hear from someone who lives that. It’s not theoretical at that point,” Salsberry said. “They’re a real-life practitioner in the field. It’s completely realistic, so you weight this experience even heavier than if it were a different setting like a case competition.”

The team of Philip Chang, Natalie Jarecki, Todd Odess, Ryan Skubic, and Jeffery Prescott finished second at the competition, while Samuel Richey, Kevin Crim, Jack Tyler, John Lockwood, and Patrick O’Brien took third.

Fisher’s winning team will join those from Brigham Young, Northwestern, Notre Dame, Purdue, and Rice on Feb. 21 at the University of Texas at Austin. The International Finals will be held in April in Chapel Hill, N.C., where the winning team will win $10,000 in prize money.