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UNB Faculty of Management

Calm under pressure: UNB team wins top prize at Venture Capital Investment Competition

Author: Katie Kim

Posted on Jun 4, 2018

Category: Students

What does the life of a venture capital investor look like? Students completing the Venture Assessment course with UNB Fredericton's faculty of business administration learn the answer to that question with their sleeves rolled up. Offered in partnership with the New Brunswick Innovation Foundation (NBIF), the course puts students in the role of venture capitalists who have to do due diligence to assess whether startups are investment ready.

This year, a team of students in the class tested their skills at a different level by competing in the Venture Capital Investment Competition hosted by the Sobey School of Business Management in Halifax, Nova Scotia, in March. This is the first year the competition was held in Canada.

“The Venture Capital Investment Competition (VCIC) is a unique competition where the students have an opportunity to emulate the life of a venture capital investor,” said Senalda Rodrigues, a student in the Venture Assessment course and a member of the UNB VCIC team.

Consisting of Seth Barkhouse, Grayson Beairsto and Natasha Youssef, as well as Rodrigues, the UNB VCIC team won first place at the national final.

According to Barkhouse, participating in this competition was similar to being a dragon on Dragon’s Den. “During the competition we had to create and structure our company to invest and then go through a series of question periods, structure a deal and then negotiate with the entrepreneur.”

Students said that while the VCIC competition was a very intense process, it was a rewarding experience. All teams competing were emailed business plans of potential investments the day before the competition. Over the course of the next couple days, they had to strategize how they would approach different elements of the competition.

“We competed against some of the top MBA schools in Canada - Rotman, Dalhousie, Laval and Western University,” said Rodriques. “The events for the competition were condensed down to one day, so being able to work with tight deadlines is definitely something we had to consider as a team. Staying calm under pressure was one of the most important takeaways from the experience.”

In April the UNB team competed in the VCIC final round, the global competition held in North Carolina.

“We were one of 13 business schools from all over the world competing,” said Rodriques. The team didn’t win in this round but, she continued, “… just being probably the first Canadian school to make it to the finals made us feel like winners. It was a great opportunity to learn first hand the differences in the Canadian and US Venture Capital markets. It was a fun experience and a perfect way to conclude my MBA Venture Assessment course. This competition is sure to remain a highlight of my MBA journey.”

All students in the Venture Assessment course agreed that the strong focus on experiential learning helped them blend academia with industry experience. In fact, they said that it helped them succeed at the first round of the competition and gave them confidence to go into the global round.

Raymond Fitzpatrick, Director of Investment at NBIF, who teaches the course, coached the team and travelled to both competitions with them. The students in the class worked closely with him and his team at NBIF who invest in small New Brunswick startups. This year, the NBIF will invest about $6 million into start-ups at various stages, and the students in the class contributed to their investment decisions.

Fitzpatrick believes that the hands-on approach of the course helped his students learn the venture capital process effectively. He added, “the skills emphasized such as critical thinking and negotiating are transferable to any career that the students will take on in the future.”

“You really need to work with actual companies and get used to the ambiguity that exists when you decide to invest or not. You literally live in the ‘grey zone’ of imperfect information, and I find that this can get lost in a standard structured case.”

Photo: (L-R) , Professor, Entrepreneurship & Venture Capital and Co-Director, Master of Technology Entrepreneurship & Innovation (MTEI) at the Sobey School of Business Management, presenting the top prize to UNB’s VCIC team, Seth Barkhouse, Natasha Youssef, Senalda Rodriques, and Grayson Beairsto.

For more information, contact Liz Lemon-Mitchell.

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