Miami students crush expectations, capture 2nd in global finals

The Miami University team in the 2017 Venture Capital Investment Competition shattered expectations and placed second in the global finals at UNC Chapel Hill on Saturday – completing an already wildly successful run that included a first place finish in the regional finals in early March.

Along the way, the team of undergraduates beat out more than 75 schools from 13 countries spanning three continents, including teams from the likes of University of Chicago, Northwestern and Carnegie Mellon.

This was Miami’s first time competing in the highly selective, invitation-only competition and the team represented Ohio’s only university in participation.

“This is a significant moment for not only the Institute for Entrepreneurship, but Miami University as a whole,” said Tim Holcomb, the Cintas Chair of Entrepreneurship and a member of the Farmer School of Business faculty. “The caliber of the competition that the team faced was world class and this achievement speaks volumes about the students’ capabilities and ability to tap into an amazing network of regional support.

Holcomb was an advisor to the Miami team, developing a five-week training program to prepare the team for the competition.

The team was comprised of nine students – five represented Miami at the international final at Chapel Hill with four more providing analytical support from the Oxford campus.

The VCIC is a unique competition in that it is the only business competition for undergraduates that puts the students on the venture capital side, instead of positioning them as start-ups pitching an idea. In the competition, the teams are presented business plans from real startups and must come up with an investment decision. In the end, they present and defend their plans to the judges – actual venture capitalists.

To get the students ready for the competition, their five weeks of preparation was held at Union Hall in Over-the-Rhine. The nine students spent half a day every week learning from leaders around the region about valuation of startups, conducting due diligence, venture capital and more.

“We were very excited to step in and provide these students with industry knowledge that isn’t normally offered at this level,” said Sarah Anderson, Fund Manager for Cintrifuse’s Syndicate Fund. “During the session I was invited to, we provided real-world examples of the due diligence process. It was encouraging to see so many members of the region step up to assist these brilliant students.”

Many StartupCincy affiliates stepped up to prepare the student for the final competition. Guests from CincyTech, Cintrifuse, Allos Ventures, Blue Chip Venture Company, MAYWIC Select Investments and Hyde Park Venture Partners.

“That was the first step, reaching out and learning from the experts about venture capital,” team member Jack Condon told The Miami Student in an interview. “This is an industry that you don’t really learn a lot about as an undergrad, if you’re in business. I think the thing we did really well was because we know all these [venture capitalists] we learned a lot of what they wanted us to.”

Further evidence of recent regional interest in the success of StartupCincy was on full display with the appointment of prominent entrepreneurial voices were appointed to the board of trustees at Miami University and the University of Cincinnati. Gov. Jon Kasich appointed Rod Robinson, founder and CEO of ConnXus, to the board at Miami and Rodney Williams, co-founder and CEO of LISNR, to the board at UC.

“The support from the StartupCincy community really propelled this team to the next level,” said Holcomb. “The unique access to subject matter experts through our series played a big role in their overall successes.”

A blueprint for success

Holcomb attributed the team’s success to three main factors. First, each student made a personal commitment to the training program and to participate in the competition. Second, they chose not to teach students about venture capital investing, but instead, how to do venture capital investing. And last, the team’s collaboration through the due diligence tasks, the startup founder Q&A sessions and investment committee meetings allowed them to really shine in the final stages of the event.

Better yet, Holcomb only sees this win as temporary high-water mark for a booming entrepreneurial focus at Miami.

According to data provided by PitchBook, over the 10 year period 2006-2015, 105 Miami graduates have launched 95 funded startups (defined by PitchBook as startups that raised at least $250,000 in seed, Series A, Series, B and subsequent rounds) that have raised $854.6 million in venture funding during that period. That figure does not include funding raised over the last two years by startups in the region led by Miami graduates, which includes EBTH (Andy and Jon Nielsen, Cincinnati, $71 million), CrossChx (Sean Lane, Columbus, $35.4 million), High Alpha (Mike Fitzgerald, Indianapolis, $15.4 million), OROS (Michael Markesbery, Cincinnati, $1.2 million), and OnTrak Software (Mark Fullerton, Cincinnati, $2.0 million), among others.

The impact of Miami graduates on the entrepreneurial ecosystem is real and far-reaching.

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