Student Venture Capital Team makes it a Fourpeat at Global finals

Team photo of group

Last month, Miami University’s student venture capital investment team won the U.S. Northeast Regional competition of the 2022 Venture Capital Investment Competition (VCIC), qualifying them for the global finals at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill. Last weekend, this team competed against eight other finalists from around the world and placed in the top three, behind only University of California-Berkeley and Georgetown University. This is the fourth time that a student venture investment team from Miami University has finished in the top three of the VCIC.

The VCIC is an invitation-only, international competition with student venture capital teams from top business schools around the world. This year undergraduate student venture teams from 48 universities across the US and Canada competed in eight regional competitions. Unlike business plan competitions where students pitch their ideas to investors, in the VCIC, student venture capital investment teams assume the identity of a venture firm.

On the first day of the 3-day competition, each student venture team received a profile of the firm’s venture fund (size, age, investment stage, targeted industries/markets, number and size of previous investments, etc.) and business plans for three seed stage companies. Teams were given 36 hours to conduct due diligence on the companies, their founders, and the market, and prepare a term sheet for an investment in one of the companies.

On the final day of the competition, teams evaluated pitches made by each company and participated in a one-on-one Q&A with the founder(s), after which teams had two hours to finalize their investment decision. Each team defended its investment recommendation to a panel of current venture capital investors who assessed each team’s investment decision and logic and then negotiated final terms with the founders of the selected company.

The team members are:

  • Alexa Bolena (MU '22 in Supply Chain Management, International Business, and Entrepreneurship), 
  • Brendan Coburn (MU '23 in Economics and Finance), 
  • Scott Graumlich (MU '22 in Economics and Entrepreneurship; Managing Director of the Altman Institute's $250,000 Social Impact Fund), 
  • Jorge Nadjar (MU ‘22 in Computer Science and Economics; Investment Director of the Altman Institute’s $500,000 RedHawk Ventures),  
  • Nicholas Murphy (MU '22 in English Language & Literature and Entrepreneurship), and 
  • David J. Pannell II (MU '22 in Finance and Human Capital Management & Leadership).

All are students in Visiting Assistant Professor of Entrepreneurship Theresa Sedlack's Venture Capital Immersion Program (ESP 444). 

Sedlack remarked, “The VCIC competition is an incredible way for students to put to work everything they have learned through their education and experiences at Miami. They have 48 hours to power up on entirely new industries, reach out to industry experts and synthesize their understanding of the startup ventures they are reviewing in those spaces across product, market, business model and financing dimensions. They can only do this by working as a team and leaning on each other. They then take that knowledge and apply it into highly interactive exchanges through interviews with the actual company founders of the startups they are reviewing. The questions they have, some of which may be very challenging, need to be converted with empathy and deep respect. Finally, they get rigorously challenged by investors who serve as the judges.  These judges challenge every one of their assumptions, so they must work together to balance effective communication with deep listening and responses that balance conviction, humility and poise."

“I would absolutely encourage others to do this experience! I had never even really heard of venture capital before joining the team, but the business knowledge you gain and the personal challenges you overcome can shape you as a young professional in any industry. The team has become some of my closest friends and I feel even more confident walking into a room of accomplished businesswomen and men to argue my own strategies and decisions,” Bolena said.

"I would 100-percent recommend this experience to anyone who even has a little bit of curiosity about venture capital, funds, finance, or business in general," Pannell said. "I learned more through this experience in 3 months than all of college. This was easily the best team I have been on in all of my time in college

Graumlich added, “Competing in the finals had so much more energy than the regional competition since we were interacting and seeing the other teams and VC judges in person and it was a fantastic experience to meet the other students and understand who we were competing against. It was so cool to talk in person to all of these VCs and startup founders in a language that six months ago I never would have even understood. This has been the best experience I’ve had at Miami hands down – if you want to actually learn something and know it fully, this is the way to learn. You also cannot ask for a better professor/coach than Theresa Sedlack; we owe all of the learning and our results to her!”

"It was incredible to watch this team work together and display all of these hard and soft skills. Their work reflects everything that Miami's faculty, staff, alumni and ecosystem partners have taught them through their Miami experience," Sedlack said. "I couldn't have been more proud of them.”