University Venture Fund (UVF) alumni place into prestigious firms after graduation and go on to accomplish great things in their careers. Some start high-growth businesses and dive into the entrepreneurial world. Others pursue jobs at top investment banks and consulting firms with goals to move into private equity and venture capital later in their career. Some even make the transition from student to private equity professional right after graduation. All are hard-working and leverage the skills and experiences they gained at UVF to achieve their personal goals and create value for the firms at which they work.
Eric Townsend, CEO of Bluesource, was a student associate at the University Venture Fund (UVF) from 2002 to 2004, while he was pursuing his MBA at the David Eccles School of Business at The University of Utah. Now, he works on mitigating environmental impacts or, what some might call, saving the planet.
Tell us about your experience at UVF.
"UVF was really remarkable; one of those experiences that you only grasp the magnitude of in retrospect. It was an incredibly immersive and career-path-shaping experience. It exposed us (students) not just to an entire industry, but actually let us participate in it.
This was early in UVF’s life and the program had a nascent, evolving feel — we were running around figuring out what exactly we could do to provide value to these PE firms that were investing a lot of energy in us. We worked our projects hard and delivered the most value we could, learning a ton and having a great time along the way. Kudos to our then-leader, Jared Hutchings for casting the vision, executing and herding the cats."
How did UVF help you professionally?
"Aside from 'a lot?' In two major ways: It provided deep exposure to private equity and built professional relationships maybe not otherwise attainable. The U had limited coursework around PE/VC at the time, and even that was, of course, just academic knowledge. UVF opened the lid and let us get into the gears of it all. It was a bit overwhelming at first, but the depth of knowledge and experience gained was an undeniable professional advantage. There were more than a few stories of UVF-ers blowing away job interviews and landing enviable positions in the sector.
Personally, the relationships we built with UVF’s partner firms and their principals were the most influential. I worked primarily with Greg Warnock and vSpring Capital. Greg was hugely impactful on my career and the first real business mentor I experienced. He, and all the other industry leaders involved in the program, invested serious time and resources into the students and lifted the veil on the “secret” world of venture. Watching the different approaches to diligence, valuation, investment thesis, etc was like an internship in best practice."
Was there a project you worked on while at UVF that stood out to you?
"When I was there, we had these color teams: The blue team, red team, and I was on the somewhat-notorious black team (had something to do with the confidential nature of several of our projects and the fact that we weren’t shy about letting the other teams know how cool we thought that was.) In no violation of said confidentiality, I worked diligence on MediConnect and Control4, built and managed the vSpring internship program and assisted in the UVF 1 raise. What stands out more than a particular project is the fact that I was able to work across the full investment process, from deal flow screen to capital deployment."
What do you wish you had known while you were in UVF?
"What due diligence was and how to do it! Now, there’s certainly humor and truth in that. At first, we didn’t know what industry-standard DD looked like. Thankfully, we had patient partners and it wasn’t long before value-add product began to flow. I hope those partners felt it was worth it in the end!"
What are you passionate about in your work at Bluesource?
"Making a tangible impact on climate restoration. Every acre of forest successfully preserved or emission reduction project completed is a material gain against an advancing, global issue and fires me up to go to the office. You can spend your time working on a small problem or a big one – either way you spend the same hours and have the same stress, so go big."
Any wisdom for our current and future students?
"Simply stated, don’t squander this. You’re in a rare and timely position, out in front of one of the biggest drivers of investment and corporate practice in recent memory. ES&G responsibility and impact measurement may still be largely elective today, but they’ll be stakeholder-demanded tomorrow. You can be among the first in the marketplace with this skill set. It’s hard to put into words just how massive the opportunity is."