Dec. 11, 2013
Student club wows venture capitalists
The 21 students who make up the Cornell Venture Capital Club have made quite a name for themselves in the VC world.
Working with clients like Sequoia Capital, New Enterprise Associates, Besemer Venture Partners and First Round Capital, club members have provided services from due diligence to product development consulting.
They’ve also co-created a blog, InsideActivityTracking.com, to follow developments in the wearable technology sector – think Fit Band and Jawbone. And they plan to expand their services to help Cornell student startups learn how to be more attractive to venture capitalists.
“The VC world is small, and word travels quickly,” said Arsham Memarzadeh ’14, the club’s managing director. “When we tell people we’re from the Cornell Venture Capital Club, they usually say, ‘Oh, we’ve heard about you.’ That’s how we’ve been able to find our recent partners.”
Competition to become a member of the club is also fierce, with only six students chosen this year from 160 applicants.
“Getting to work hands-on with startups and venture capital firms on projects where they often take our recommendations has taught me how to research and develop strategies for businesses,” said Ratnika Prasad ’14, the club’s operations manager. “The kind of skills that CVC gave me definitely gave me an edge in my summer internships as well as exposure to some of the coolest aspects of the tech industry.”
Firms typically connect with the club to work on a specific project, which is assigned to a group of student analysts who work confidentially because of sensitive company or industry data. They develop a report or presentation, which they share with Memarzadeh, then present to the firm. Most projects are finished in one semester.
David Stern ’91, a partner with Clearstone Venture Partners in Santa Monica, Calif., has given club members several projects and also worked with them on InsideActivityTracking.com.
“I always encourage them to take chances and draw their own conclusions as well, as opposed to accepting my thesis or conclusions as fact,” Stern said. “The final projects and reports have varied from very comprehensive Powerpoints to spreadsheets of companies with all of the vectors I wanted explored in various fields.
“They deliver far beyond their years,” Stern said, adding that it’s easy to forget that the club is made up of undergraduates.
“With one partner, we take part in their weekly conference call, where they discuss potential investments,” Memarzadeh said. “They’ll be speaking and then pause and ask, ‘So, CVC, what do you guys think?”
For Memarzadeh, venture capital is an exciting field because it’s a way to support new technology. “I think of all the big companies today who wouldn’t be where they are without the support of venture capitalists,” he said.
To expand that progress locally, the club is beginning to work with students through Entrepreneurship@Cornell, offering advice on dealing with VCs.
“We know we can offer help to students [in the eLab or POPSHOP] to make their companies more appealing for investment,” Memarzadeh said. “We’ve seen what characteristics make venture capitalists turn down companies, and we’ve also recommended companies for investment. We want to be more of a resource for entrepreneurs here at Cornell.”
Kathy Hovis is a writer for Entrepreneurship@Cornell.