Being a VC for a day

This is a guest post penned by Siddhi Saraiya (FTMBA 2011), a VCIC participant. As part of a two part post, around the Venture Capital Investment Competition, Siddhi shares on her team’s experience being a VC of the day. To read about what it was like to plan the contest, click through to Robbie’s post here.

On the morning of February 5th, I walked into the conference room with my team mates Scott, Buzz, Gabor, and Ian. We were focused and excited for the Venture Capital Investment Competition; we had spent about 10 hours over the two previous nights in the library preparing for the day.

By the afternoon, it had become clear that our investment choice was not the favorite amongst the teams, and our investment strategy was quirky. During the Q&A, we were hit hard with questions about our choices, but every time one person was unsure, another would step forward and answer. I really enjoyed seeing my teammates perform, and I was impressed by each of them.

Before the winners were announced, the judges spoke for a minute, saying that they valued the rapport with the entrepreneurs and the teamwork of the winning team. When they announced our team’s name, I felt honored that the impressive panel of VCs had chosen us to represent our school, and in true Berkeley style, they had rewarded us for our unique approach.

Although we didn’t win the next round at USC, this was a special memory for each of us from our first year, a chance for us to become better friends, and an excellent learning experience about venture capital.


Haas Venture Capital Competition

This is a guest post penned by Robbie Horwitz (FTMBA 2011), VCIC Organizing Committee, Judging Representative:

This Friday, February 5th, 2010, six teams of UC Berkeley graduate students will take on the role of venture capitalists for the day as they face off at the Haas school of Business for a chance to compete in the regional VCIC semifinals at the University of Southern California in mid February. Each team will be asked to evaluate business plans from promising entrepreneurs who are currently seeking funding for their businesses. The teams will perform due diligence in the form of a question and answer session with each entrepreneur, and will then prepare a valuation and term sheet for the business which they believe represents the best investment. A panel of experienced Silicon Valley venture capitalists will assess how well each team performs these tasks and determine the competition’s winner.

Recently, on January 22nd, 2010, the teams had a chance to practice their skills by participating in a series of workshops led by a team of two seasoned venture capitalists, an innovative entrepreneur, and an experienced and knowledgeable corporate finance attorney. These experts provided valuable feedback and guidance to the teams, which is sure to come in handy during the competition. Now, with less than one week to go before the competition, the teams are ready to compete and excitement has been growing on campus. It should be a fun event and a great learning experience for all involved!


Berkeley Finance Conference

Bankers, investors and VC’s, Oh MY!

Friday was the 3rd annual Berkeley Finance Conference, the only student run Finance Conference on the West Coast. Over 170 participants (from all over the country) and volunteers filled the campus for the 10 hour event.
Being student run, there are plenty of opportunities to get involved (and dodge the $30 admission fee). I was responsible for the Green Room (where the panelists hung out before their talks) and the finances. It was quite rewarding watching how much everyone enjoyed the event.
The featured speaker was Mark Zanoli, who works at J.P. Morgan, my previous employer. He had a very interesting take on the recovery and the recent surge in M&A activity.
I loved it so much that I am co-chairing next years event. Hope to see you there…


Technology Entrepreneurship Challenge

Yesterday, Haas hosted this year’s final of the Intel+UC Berkeley Technology Entrepreneurship Challenge, one of the highlights of the Global Faculty Colloquium on Entrepreneurship Education (organized by the Lester Center for Entrepreneurship). With 21 teams selected from several hundred business plans from competitions around the world, the challenge was able to attract some of the world’s brightest entrepreneurs to Berkeley and the public pitches for the people’s choice award made for a very interesting evening.

In the end, Navaris Medical, a start-up developing new imaging solutions for breast-cancer surgeons, won the $25,000 first-prize, and Trivial Solutions, a start-up providing navigation support for visually impaired people, won the people’s choice award. I was especially excited to see Navaris Medical win, as they were founded by students and researchers from Technische Universität München, my German Alma Mater, and the MBA Bar of the Week, held right after the award ceremony, provided a great way to mingle with some of the finalists and to learn more about their ideas.

For anyone interested in innovation and entrepreneurship the final round of pitches was an exciting experience and I can highly recommend to attend some of the programs organized by the Lester Center, if you are in the area.

Update: Check out the UC Berkeley Business Plan Competition as well. This is Berkeley’s marquee entrepreneurship event, bringing together entrepreneurs from the entire campus community.


My Other Car is a Prius

This week, I had the opportunity to hear Vinod Khosla speak as part of the yearly Management of Technology Lecture series. For budding technologists and entrepreneurs, meeting Vinod Khosla is pretty much the teenage girl equivalent of meeting Justin Timberlake. Mr. Khosla is the former founder of Sun Microsystems, former general partner of Kleiner, Perkins, Caufield Byers, and founder of venture capital fund Khosla Ventures.

For the past two plus decades, Mr. Khosla has helped to shape the direction of numerous startups including Google and Genentech. But in recent years, he has turned his eye to greener pastures. Back in 2004, long before Al Gore shared his inconvenient truth to Academy voters, Khosla started to make bets on clean energy technology. He invested in industries that had either fallen out of favor (solar energy) or that were still relatively new (cellulosic ethanol fuel). Yet now in 2007, with the whole world clamoring for a solution to the impending climate change crisis on the Earth, Mr. Khosla’s bets look downright prescient and he is once again at the forefront of these emerging technologies.

Over the one hour talk, Mr. Khosla gave us a brief overview of different ideas that his venture companies have come up with to solve this energy crisis. Yet far from being simply an idealistic environmentalist, Mr. Khosla grounded his entire talk in the economics of “being green.” He stated that such technologies must scale and be cost competitive with existing energy sources such as coal, or else developing economies would not likely adopt them. Maybe 20 years ago, when solar cars sputtered out and died on cloudy days, such ideas around clean technology seemed like the stuff of Star Wars. But after hearing about the advances in these technologies as Mr. Khosla described to us, I can’t help but feel like the solution to the climate change crisis is much closer than we think. And when that time comes, I have a feeling that Mr. Khosla will have had a hand in the solution.

—Brian Chu