Students, Startups, and Venture Capitalists - Leeds Graduate Students Win Regional Competition

Published: Feb. 23, 2017

The University of Colorado Boulder’s Leeds School of Business beat out several elite schools at the regional Venture Capital Investment Competition on Feb. 17, 2017. The regional win moves the team of five graduate-level students forward to compete in the global finals in April. The competition allows students from top business schools to get the entire venture capitalist experience by going through the whole investment process from initial research all the way to developing an investment strategy with written deliverables that students must negotiate and defend. Although the dollars are not real, the stakes are high as startups pitch their ideas and teams compete to decide which investment opportunity and strategy is the most worthwhile. 

The team at Leeds invested heavily in learning in advance about the venture capital space and the competition and maximized their time during the competition to build that rapport with the entrepreneurs. The Leeds winning team consisted of Adrian Smith, Nick Thigpen, Zach Fleck, Kristine Yates, and Randy Coffey. “We are proud of our execution in Austin, and we look forward to competing in Chapel Hill where we can show the broader startup community why our program is consistently a top contender,” said Nick Thigpen, 2017 MBA candidate. He noted that CU Leeds helped uniquely position the team to capitalize on both academic and professional venture capital resources. In addition to placing first in regionals, the Leeds team also received the award for Entrepreneur’s Choice. 

Leeds School of Business 1st place team at the Venture Capital Investment Competition

The Leeds team placed first in this year's regional Venture Capital Investment Competition and will move forward to compete in the global finals in April. Team members from left to right: Nick Thigpen, 2nd-year MBA; Kristine Yates, 3rd-year law; Adrian Smith, 2nd-year MBA; Randy Coffey, 2nd-year law; Zach Fleck, 2nd-year MBA. 

The Leeds team was supported in part by the coaching and mentorship provided by the Leeds Deming Center for Entrepreneurship, which focuses on teaching students to think like entrepreneurs, act like social innovators and deliver as business leaders. 

This year’s event was hosted at the University of Texas at Austin McCombs School of Business and provided teams the chance to test their skills as venture capitalists with $150 million to invest. Leeds School of Business placed first against Chicago Booth, Northwestern Kellogg, Rice Jones, Vanderbilt Owen, and Washington Olin. The winners from the various regional competitions across the world will compete in the global finals on April 7-8 at Kenan-Flagler Business School in Chapel Hill, North Carolina.

The Venture Capital Investment Competition brings together students, startups, and venture capitalists to provide real-world experience in a simulated, but competitive setting. Students evaluate three startups, determine the best opportunity, defend an investment strategy to the venture capitalists serving as judges, and ultimately negotiate the deal with the startup’s CEO. Student entrepreneurs and venture capitalists both benefit from the networking opportunities at the event. The competition also benefits the startups who receive the feedback necessary to help get their startups funded and the venture capitalists gain insights on new startups and investment opportunities.

The startups in attendance at the Central Regionals were Tito Salas from CodersLink, Will Mitchell from Contract Simply, and Nick Hermandorfer from Home Run Dugout. Venture Capitalists judges at the event were from Techstars, WPP Ventures, ATP Fund, McCombs School of Business, CFO Services, Inc., Sibling Capital Ventures, LLC, Miller Egan Molter & Nelson LLP, Seed Ventures, and Escalate Capital. 

Since 1998, the Venture Capital Investment Competition has been open to business schools around the world. Leeds has competed in the last 17 competitions and moved forward to the global finals nine times, including winning the top spot in 2012.