Notre Dame team takes national championship in VC competition

Author: Carol Elliott

A team of University of Notre Dame undergraduate students won first place in the 2017 Undergraduate Venture Capital Investing Competition (VCIC), a highly regarded annual event hosted by the University of North Carolina’s Kenan-Flagler Business School.

The five students — a combination of finance and economics majors who ranged from sophomore to senior — bested six teams during the final round of competition on March 25. Jackson Jhin, Lavinia Li, Daniel Ko, Tyler Christian and Carlos Covarrubias Serrano traveled to UNC’s Chapel Hill campus for the final event.

“What I like most about VCIC is the competition demands students think critically about a business’s value proposition and competitive advantage,” said Kevin Burke, managing director of the Notre Dame Institute for Global Investing and the teaching professor who coached the Notre Dame team. “These invaluable life skills will benefit the students for years to come. The regular interaction with high-profile venture capitalist and entrepreneurs only adds to the experience.”

Vcic Champs Cropped 2

All told, 20 teams from some of the top undergraduate business schools in the nation participated in the 2017 competition, including Chicago, Michigan, Duke and Cornell. In February, the teams competed in three regional competitions, with the top two teams from the mid-Atlantic and Northeast regionals and three teams from the Central region proceeding to the finals. Notre Dame finished second behind Miami of Ohio in the Central region.

"VCIC stands apart from any other program or competition I have been a part of at Notre Dame,” economics senior Jackson Jhin. “Through meeting with VCs who judged the competition, we had the incredible opportunity to get exposure and show them our skills. For undergrads, there is practically no other way to meet a VC and show them how you think."

VCIC is a unique competition in that students are given the opportunity to act as venture capital investors, much like the “sharks” on the TV show “Shark Tank.” Turning the tables from the usual business plan competition approach helps students think critically about entrepreneurial ventures from an investment perspective, which includes evaluating markets, industries, competition, economic trends, risk and other factors.

During the event, teams are given three actual business proposals, which they have 48 hours to research, analyze and make an investment decision. The students listen to pitches from each entrepreneurial venture and conduct 15-minute due diligence sessions with each. They decide which company they will invest in and the terms of the investment – known as a term sheet – and then appear before the 12-member panel of VCIC judges to defend their decision. The judges include many high profile angel investors, fund managers and VCIC alums.

Teams are scored according to the quality of their terms sheets, their due diligence and overall presence.

The students were drawn from Notre Dame’s Mendoza College of Business venture capital investing class taught by instructors Burke, a concurrent teaching professor, and Jim Hunt, an adjunct professor at the Mendoza College of Business. Notre Dame alumnus Ray Lopez assisted the students during the final event.

“The Notre Dame Institute for Global Investing was thrilled to teach and support this innovative classroom and experiential learning experience,” said Burke. “We believe educational opportunities like VCIC offer students an unparalleled learning experience that will help set them apart in the competitive field of investment management.”

"The competition helped me to understand how a strong qualitative skill set, and the ability to think independently are often more important than technical skills in guiding an investment decision," said junior Tyler Christian.

"From start to finish, the experience was incredibly rewarding in regard to both professional skills and genuine life lessons," added Carlos Covarrubias Serrano, also a junior.

Kenan-Flagler first organized the VCIC for MBA students during the middle of the technology bubble in 1998 as an educational event to learn about venture funding. Now in its 18th year, VCIC® has evolved into a marketplace for entrepreneurs seeking investors and a training ground for future venture capitalists.

The 2017 VCIC was the fifth national final at the undergraduate level, and the first year the event included regional “feeder” competitions. This was Mendoza undergraduate students’ first time to compete. Notre Dame MBA teams have been participating since 2000.