In the dynamic startup haven of Boulder, Colorado, high-growth ventures are as ubiquitous as sweeping mountain views. In a town that is bursting with innovative growth companies, MBA students at Leeds School of Business now have an unparalleled opportunity to immerse themselves into the startup community.
At the forefront of high-growth venture education is the Deming Center for Entrepreneurship at Leeds, with an unprecedented High-Growth Venture (HGV) Fellowship designed to drop MBA students into the world of scalable startups and develop a specialized skillset in high demand by CEOs and founders.
Companies want to know: “Can she make tough choices in the midst of ambiguity?” “Does he have creative ideas?” “Is she adaptable to lightning-fast change?” When it comes to a high-pressure, high-risk environment, it is agile problem-solvers, well acquainted with failure, who make the cut.
A priority of the fellowship is to provide training in soft skills. Workshops, a.k.a. “huddles,” arm students with critical skills for working at a scaleup, including brainstorming, storytelling and running a meeting. In addition, students have unlimited and unfettered access to mentors at high-growth startups for invaluable guidance on what it takes to work there—not to mention access to a powerful network.
A combination of coursework, co-curricular options, workshops and a paid internship immerses fellows in academic and experiential learning unique to growth-stage companies. Academically, fellows follow a curated track of entrepreneurship classes, some of which include working with accelerators such as Techstars. This spring, a new, one-of-a-kind class on high-growth companies will be added.
HGV Fellows take what they learn and hit the ground running at an internship with a local or national high-growth venture.
First-year MBA Alex Gulsby grew up in a family of entrepreneurs and plans to start her own high-growth venture after graduation. Through the fellowship, she assists local entrepreneurs in developing solutions for existing problems. She explains how she’s learning about failure and “the role it plays in shaping strong entrepreneurs…[I] have learned, applied, failed and succeeded countless times over.”
Sandy MacDonnell (MBA’19) says the best part of the HGV Fellowship is “spending time with like-minded students who are as excited as I am about high-growth companies.” Post-graduation she plans to dive into a high-growth venture in B2B software and help it scale up. “I am incredibly inspired by the female COOs in the tech industry and aspire to follow in their footsteps,” says MacDonnell.
Over the summer, MacDonnell interned at Logikcull.com in San Francisco, a company providing instant discovery for modern legal teams. Her supervisor recounts how quickly she became “a perfect piece of a seemingly ever-changing puzzle of complex projects and goals.”
In the end, HGV fellows learn the hallmarks of a scaleup: how to rapidly scale a good idea, build an organizational culture that allows for rapid growth, and change or reinvent quickly if a roadblock emerges. Equally important, the program ensures they can function in the high-pressure, collaborative and ambiguous environment of high-growth ventures.