Ben Sandler, Andy Newman, Laura Mena, Kat Mena, and Ethan Retcher
Ben Sandler, Andy Newman, Laura Mena, Kat Mena, and Ethan Retcher Photo: Jay Murdock
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It's a threepeat! Farmer School team wins VCIC Central Region again

Competition held at Miami for first time

Another year, another big win for the Farmer School of Business in the Venture Capital Investment Competition as a Farmer School team took first place in the Central Region finals for the third year in a row.

“To be able to watch these students come up to speed across so many different areas and then be able to do that in a way that preserves the integrity of the founders, as well as the perspective of the judges, is a learning experience that I absolutely treasure for these students,” Theresa Sedlack, Institute of Entrepreneurship entrepreneur-in-residence, said.

It was the third time the Farmer School participated in the competition, and the first time it was held at Miami University. Teams from the University of Chicago, University of Illinois, Michigan State, Notre Dame, and Northwestern traveled to Oxford for the competition.

On the first day of the three-day competition, each student venture team receives a profile of the firm’s venture fund and business plans for three seed stage companies. Teams are given 36 hours to conduct due diligence on the companies, their founders, and the market and prepare a term sheet for an investment in one of the companies.

On the final day of the competition, teams evaluate pitches made by each company and participate in a one-on-one Q&A with the founders, after which teams have two hours to finalize their investment decision. Each team then defends its investment recommendation to a panel of current venture capital investors who assess each team’s investment decision and logic and then negotiate final terms with the founders of the selected company.

The winning team from FSB included:

The Farmer School team also won the prestigious Entrepreneur’s Choice award, voted on by the three founders who were the subjects of the competition.

Kat Mena was on the support team for last year’s competition and traveled to the national finals as an observer, where she watched the team place third in the nation. “It was a lot different being on the competition team. The stakes felt a lot higher,” she explained. “It was an awesome experience, just getting to be part of the entrepreneurial conversation, partner meetings, things that I didn't get to do before, was definitely a remarkable opportunity.”

Faculty nominated students from across campus to participate in the program. Those students were screened by faculty from the Institute for Entrepreneurship for admission into the program, which also required participants to complete an eight-week Venture Capital Immersion program that immersed them in venture capital concepts, terminology, and practices. Held at Union Hall in Cincinnati’s OTR, the program included guest lecturers, panelists, and speakers from angel groups and venture capital investment firms across the country, including CincyTech, Cintrifuse, River Cities Capital Fund, Allos Ventures, Queen City Angels, Hyde Park Venture Partners, H Ventures, Refinery Ventures, Arthur Ventures, and Square 1 Bank, among others.

“For them to come in and understand this, interact with judges who understand the world and who ask tough questions to which the students have to respond, it's very tough,” John McIlwraith, judge, entrepreneur-in-residence, and co-founder of Allos Ventures, pointed out. The level of poise and maturity that we all saw from the students was quite impressive. It says something about the level of education that they're receiving.”

The entrepreneurs who volunteered to be the subject of the competition were also impressed. “They asked some really solid questions!” OROS co-founder Michael Markesbery said. “Coming out of college, I had no idea what a liquidation preference or discount on a convertible note was. Because of VCIC, these students do. I wish this program had been available when I was a student.”

“The biggest difference between the students and traditional venture capitalists is that they had done much more homework on the product and company in advance, and they focused on user acquisition/social to a greater extent,” DraftMates creator Matt Golis explained. “I think students are closer to how new products/services will be received in the market, and that fresh perspective is very different from a VC that hears a ton of pitches and isn't as specific about why they invested or passed on a startup.”

The team will now head to the national finals at the University of North Carolina later this month, where they will face the winners of the other five regions. In addition to last year’s third-place finish, a Farmer School team came in second at nationals in 2017.

See more photos from the event on our Facebook page

Group photo of VCIC teams and judges