CU-Boulder students qualify for international venture capital competition April 10-12

April 7, 2014 •

A team of University of Colorado Boulder graduate students has qualified for the final round of an international venture capital competition April 10-12 thanks in part to what it dubs its secret sauce: the local startup community.

The team, which is sponsored by the Deming Center for Entrepreneurship at the Leeds School of Business, includes Adam Block, John Cook, Nicole Reed Fry, Chris Kaffer and Chris White. Jessica Hunter and Caitlin Gallagher McDonald are alternate members. Each is a graduate student either in law or business administration or a combination of both.

They previously won a regional round of the competition -- called the Venture Capital Investment Competition (VCIC) -- in late February at the University of Southern California in Los Angeles. Regionals also were held in Europe and Asia. The international final will be held this week at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill.

CU-Boulder has won the regional VCIC 10 out of the past 11 years.

To prepare, many of the students took Leeds School courses including a venture capital class and an entrepreneurial finance class. The venture capital class was taught by Brad Bernthal, associate professor of law and director of the Entrepreneurship Initiative at the Silicon Flatirons Center, and Jason Mendelson, managing director of the Foundry Group.

They also have met outside of class for about five hours weekly since last fall. During the sessions, CEOs of local startups donated their time and pitched their companies to the team, which practiced vetting the businesses and creating mock investment agreements. The group practiced with about 15 companies ranging from an organic grocery delivery service to a social commentary platform for movie aficionados.

“CU-Boulder is lucky to be part of the Front Range’s innovation ecosystem,” said Bernthal. “Our students have an advantage because they’re engaged with emerging companies in the classroom and in the community, and it’s no accident that we enjoy a tradition of excellence surrounding VCIC.”

During the February regional match, the team selected a startup called Shakti, an app that allows users to find and order from local juice bars. They had three hours to vet the companies and prepare written materials including financial projections and a proposal. They then negotiated terms with Shakti and responded to judges’ questions.

The group won $1,500 and beat the University of Arizona, San Diego State University, the Thunderbird School of Global Management, UCLA and the University of San Francisco.

“This experience is helping shape us in startups, entrepreneurship and both sides of venture capital investing,” said Block. “For example, I am more easily able to turn a business idea into meetings with prospective investors, or to represent my startup when interacting with existing investors.”

At the final international competition, the CU-Boulder team will compete for $5,000 against the University of California, Berkeley; Boston College; Brigham Young University; Columbia University; the University of North Carolina; Yale University; and teams from the China Europe International Business School; the Copenhagen Business School; Nanyang Technological University in Singapore; and Oxford University.

“Participating in VCIC has been one of the most rewarding experiences I’ve had as a student at CU-Boulder,” said Fry. “In addition to experiencing the early-stage venture capital process and building a great team, I’ve made invaluable connections to inspiring entrepreneurs, CU-Boulder professors and the local venture capital community. Involvement in the competition is a great fit for CU and the Boulder community.”

For more information about the VCIC visit

Adam Block
Brad Bernthal, 303-492-0610
Remy Arteaga, Deming Center, 303-492-3490
Elizabeth Lock, CU-Boulder media relations, 303-492-3117