The annual competition brings teams of graduate students together with real entrepreneurial companies seeking funding for a day of elevator pitches and investment negotiations. The students take the role of venture capital firms, evaluating the companies’ pitches and negotiating terms for investment. Winners are selected by a panel of real venture capitalists as well as the entrepreneurs themselves.
Duke’s team ⎯ consisting of Duke Law students Grant Reid ’12 and Jamal Modir LLMLE’12 and first-year Fuqua MBA students Leonardo Lanes, Grant Reckhow, and Joel McIntyre ⎯ received the Entrepreneurs Choice award. The $500 prize recognizes the team that delivers the most value to the companies they evaluate, as judged by the entrepreneurs.
“This is exactly what I want to do,” said Reid, who will work at Wilson Sonsini Goodrich & Rosati in Palo Alto, Calif., after graduation, as an associate in the firm’s corporate securities and venture capital practices. “The competition gave me a good sense of what it’s like to be in the room when people are thinking as venture capitalists and what the broad considerations are that go into investment decision-making. You really get to see how the legal team can shape the thought process and the negotiations.”
Though no actual investments are made, students apply financial, legal and other metrics in evaluating entrepreneurial companies’ viability, putting into practice skills learned in the classroom. Entrepreneurs benefit from the chance to practice and refine their ‘elevator pitches,’ and they gain valuable business and legal advice from students.
“The VCIC was a unique opportunity that provided me real-life experience in valuing and negotiating terms with existing companies with actual products and existing revenue streams,” said Modir, who is an associate with Durham-based 8 Rivers Capital and, through Duke’s Law and Entrepreneurship LLM (LLMLE) practicum program, is serving as a fellow at the Blackstone Entrepreneurs Network. “Because the companies that pitched us are actually raising capital, it was a very practical complement to the academic background the LLMLE program provides.
“It also provided a great networking opportunity,” Modir added. “The VC judges provided us valuable instruction at the competition but also welcomed us to establish connections with them, which has already led me to some great advice regarding my career ambitions.”
Though the event offered students a chance to meet students, entrepreneurs and venture capitalists from around the country, the Duke team also saw familiar faces from the Research Triangle area. After hearing pitches from a number of companies, the Duke team ultimately picked a Durham-based e-commerce startup ⎯ Windsor Circle ⎯ for its ‘investment.’
“The fact that the competition connected law students with business students and with local entrepreneurs was a selling point,” Reid said. “It was a really rewarding experience.”