Meet Luke Vernon. Luke is a Managing Partner at Ridgeline Ventures and the Founder of Luke’s Circle, and was previously COO of Boulder-based Eco-Products. He attended the evening MBA program at Leeds School of Business from 2006-2009.
After working with Eco-Products for a few years, he saw the company was on a huge growth curve and felt they were going to hit an inflection point. Luke needed a business education sooner rather than later to successfully manage the company's future growth, which subsequently grew from $1 million in revenue to $80 million over a nine-year period. He joined the evening MBA program looking for more skills and understanding of what tools were available and to find out what his leadership style was. Luke felt it was important to have a strong education in his toolset.
“There was so much value attending a strong program in the town where I worked. The network and relationships I was able to build locally were really transformational.”
The inspiration behind Luke’s Circle
Luke started Luke’s Circle after graduating from Leeds. Eco-Products was hiring quickly and referrals were their best place to hire. He wanted help people network and make introductions, and when he didn’t have a specific role for someone, he wanted a way to keep in touch with them and present them with other opportunities at local companies. Luke’s Circle now connects the area’s leading employers to a circle of qualified professionals and also provides those professionals with direct access to the latest local insider opportunities. Luke credits a lot of the growth of Luke’s Circle to his relationships at CU: people were willing to talk about it and help spread the word.
Venture Capital Investment Competition
Luke got some exposure to how investors operate while at Eco-Products, but it was his participation on the Venture Capital Investment Team (VCIC) and venture capital focused classes with Leeds and the law school, that really sparked his interest in the investment side of managing a business.
With VCIC Luke learned how to think about evaluating companies, how to assess entrepreneurs, and how to identify patterns. He also learned the importance of relationship building: it helps you understand if you want to invest in someone and whether or not they want you to. His team went to the international finals but did not place: their judges suggested they didn’t do enough to build relationships with the entrepreneurs who were pitching their teams. That experience gave him a wealth of knowledge about the vital role relationship building plays as a venture capitalist.
His advice to MBA candidates
Inside the classroom
“Take Management of Organizational Change with Professor Wayne Boss. The class was incredibly valuable, and made me reflect on how I interacted with people as a leader and what drives other people’s decisions, needs, and communication styles.”
Outside the classroom
“Be involved in more than just the classes. There are so many resources and mentors in the Boulder community, and opportunities like VCIC will open doors for you.”