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48 hours of VCing.

I have many excuses for not blogging much over the last week. Some of them are actually legitimate reasons: midterms, class projects etc. But one of the more interesting reasons I haven't been getting the recommended amount of sleep (I don't know what that is, but I'm not getting anywhere close to it, dammit!): VCIC.

The creatively named Venture Capital Investment Competition was a blast. The rules are available on the website, but in short: teams read 3 business plans, grill the entrepreneurs the next day and present their decisions to a panel of VCs.

I was lucky I had a great team; we worked hard but were pretty laid-back about the whole competition. Sample e-mail exchange, the day the competition applications were due:

Me: "Hey, do you want to do the VCIC?"
Team member: "Sure...what is it?"

Seventeen teams applied, seven teams were selected for the round based on our resumes/application and we were one of them. (Team member's comment after looking at the competition: "I think we're the seventh team.")

I had a great time at the competition and learnt a lot from it; and I really mean that as opposed to all the times I say that about experiences just because I have nothing really concrete to say about them. Everyone at business school "learns a lot" from a lot of experiences.

I learnt about how VCs think and got some practice thinking that way; considering all the other factors that I'd never realized mattered while making an investment e.g. which round of funding will it be? how many rounds are anticipated? what are the returns like? what piece of the pie are we getting? what instruments can be used to structure the deal? what are exit prospects/options? etc. etc.

I also ended up being the one presenting our teams recommendations (I had to do _something_ and the team, quite sensibly, didn't let me anywhere near the financial modeling.) This continues my quest to get up and risk making a fool of myself in public as often as possible. I figure at some point, I'll stop caring and then I can actually improve.:) I give myself passing marks (gentleman's C?) for that, though as I'll detail in another post the feedback/comments I received from others left me confused.

Overall, I loved the experience and learnt a lot from watching the other presenters' styles, their choice of slides and information they thought relevant and most of all, from talking to the entrepreneurs as part of the competition and the cocktail afterwards. BTW, the firms we evaluated were these guys, these guys and these other guys. In case you're wondering, of course we didn't finish amongst the prizes! Dude.. I presented!:)

Here's my learnings/issues from those days though (what, when have I not complained?):

  • The judges (pretty impressive group lined up by the way) had just leafed through the b-plans (understandably they had better things to do), so what they were primarily evaluating was only one part of being a VC: the deal structuring (i.e. the term sheet we submitted. Now I'm not qualified to comment on term sheets, but apparently ours' wasn't that hot....well the term sheet was cos the guys who wrote it are pretty smart...but the terms weren't VC-friendly.)
  • The questions being asked were not challenging how we'd come up with the chances of the business succeeding, but stuff like how we'd structure the deal, which of us would be on the board etc. etc. Is that really what distinguishes a great VC? I don't know...I'm asking.
  • I need to be allowed to be funny while presenting (teammates shot down two weak attempts at humor that I'd planned.) I need to keep the dream that I could be a stand-up comic someday alive.
  • Time flies when I start doing a real presentation...I was like 2 minutes behind when the timekeeper gave me the 2 minute warning...everyone says they weren't able to tell though.
  • Pink can actually look incredibly good on a slide (another team; not us.)
I'll stop here, but more on this later...

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