Business Wire, April 19, 2010
• ‘Education through Investment’ is motto of student-run venture capital fund in which grads and undergrads from any discipline can invest time and energy in a business education that pays off big career dividends. ‘I got exactly the job I wanted,’ says fund law grad Charity Williams
• Students learn to evaluate and invest in fledgling enterprises using $18 million raised from venture capital partners. ‘It just gives you a ton of confidence,’ says honors student Alexandra Weiss
• Invaluable business network, real-world skills give UVF grads edge in seeking opportunities, says Kauffman Fellow Program finalist Andy Rohrwasser
SALT LAKE CITY -- “When I sent out my resume consulting companies told me they were cutting back significantly on new hires,” said University of Utah honors student Alexandra Weiss. “So I knew good grades alone would not get me the job I wanted, I needed work experience too.”
For most 2010 graduates, the outlook is gloomy for finding a good job in a weak economy. Many 2009 grads are still searching, and employers often are looking for new hires who bring them immediately applicable job skills. Weiss enrolled in a unique University of Utah David Eccles School of Business program—University Venture Fund (UVF)—that launched her into the freewheeling world of venture capital and gave her an education that books on theory in a classroom can’t deliver.
“UVF is the type of business experience where CEOs call you—an undergrad—with questions,” said Weiss. “We were evaluating real start-up companies seeking investment money. A network of people count on you—and it’s your cell number and email that management has.” UVF is a student-run private equity fund that began in 2004 and raised $18 million from investors who are limited partners, meaning they depend on the work of the students to select investments that deliver a fair return on their money.
It’s risky and highly educational. “The experience just gives you a ton of confidence,” said Weiss. “As a student, you can’t get that direct business education anywhere else.” The true value of UVF, now the largest educational venture capital fund in the U.S., is the high-quality business instruction it affords. Weiss went on to land her dream job at Bain and Company, one of the world’s leading business consulting firms.
UVF students commit 20 hours per week and enter the notoriously difficult-to-crack world of venture capital, in which entrepreneurs with innovative ideas—from biotech to cloud computing—seek investors looking for the next industry-rocking enterprise. With some of the brightest minds of the business world mentoring them, grads and undergrads screen investment opportunities, perform due diligence, make presentations to an investment committee and follow their portfolio companies through good times and bad.
Law school graduate Charity Williams learned how important real-world experience is to employers today. “Before I began law school, I made a list of the top three firms I wanted to work for.” After graduating and completing UVF, “I got interviews and job offers from each.” It certainly helped that she graduated summa cum laude, said Williams, but interviewers told her it was her UVF experience that captured their attention.
“I got exactly the job I wanted,” she said, hired by Cooley Godward Kronish, a top legal advisor to venture capital funds and emerging companies. UVF is open to students from any academic area, from medicine to economics; Williams was one of UVF’s first law students.
For entrepreneur Andy Rohrwasser, who is a finalist in the prestigious Kauffman Fellow Program for emerging venture capital industry leaders, few experiences have paid off like UVF. “It was a perfect complement to my academic education,” said Rohrwasser. “It is a unique, real-world opportunity for students. After completing the program, I have a great network within the venture capital community, I know where to get my questions answered and when colleagues ask about an early stage enterprise, for example, I can tell them the five people they should talk to first.” Rohrwasser, who holds a doctorate in human genetics and an MBA, is co-founder of NV Partners, which offers capital services that bridge the gap between startup companies and investors.
“Our students go out into today’s business world well prepared,” said UVF Managing Director Tom Stringham, who is a director in the ROTH Capital Partners Corporate Finance Group and who worked as an investment banker on Wall Street. “At job interviews, our students can cite the multiple deals they participated in and tell a prospective employer exactly what they can do for them.”
Also instructive is the insider’s peek students get into new companies of different industries going through various stages of development, Stringham said. “Students see the wide range of employment opportunities available. They work with entrepreneurs, CEOs, CFOs and investors, prepare for and answer tough questions. Our students also graduate with a valuable business network of their own."
“UVF is not a classroom exercise—not even dress rehearsal,” said Stringham. “Real money rides on the quality of work our students do, that makes it a true business education.”
About University Venture Fund
Founded in 2001 at the University of Utah’s David Eccles School of Business, University Venture Fund (UVF) is an independent venture capital firm committed to improving the quality of entrepreneurial education for a diverse group of students at its participating universities. The fund is a collaborative effort among students, universities and the professional investment community in which students raise capital, perform due diligence on venture capital opportunities and make investments. In addition to being the largest fund of its kind, UVF is the first fund for which students raised all the capital and the first student-run fund that has a traditional limited-partner relationship with its investors. Each year UVF hosts the University Private Equity Summit when business students from around North America gather to share best practices and learn from investment industry professionals. Visit www.uventurefund.com.