Most successful companies begin with an idea, a team, and a dream; however, an increasing number of them share an additional trait: venture capital funding. According to the National Venture Capital Association, more than one-fifth of U.S. gross domestic product comes from companies that used venture capital support to grow.
The Cornell Venture Capital club knows this well and has thrown itself right into the mix. Undergraduates working with CVC perform projects for industry-leading venture capital firms like New Enterprise Associates, Sequoia Capital, Google Ventures, and more. Projects cover a wide variety of topics from investment due diligence to direct work with a firm’s portfolio companies, offering members experiential learning while providing meaningful work for clients.
“It’s a small world in venture capital,” explains CVC President Stephen Jacobs. “A lot of things are connected, and a lot of people know each other. It’s cool to have undergraduates getting that interaction now.”
While the insular nature of venture capital seems limiting to some, CVC has used this facet of the industry to its advantage. To build relationships with new clients, the group focuses on performing high-quality, professional work for each of its partners to create positive word of mouth. As a result, CVC has become a common name in the industry, and the organization now has partnerships with five of the industry’s top 10 VCs as determined by CB Insights’ 2016 Peer Rankings.
“We work directly with VCs, and we can see the direct impact we have with respect to the portfolio moves they make,” summarized Project Manager Matti Thurston. “There have been times where I’ve been on projects where we’ve seen our VC partners invest in the companies we’ve recommended. There’s nothing like having your voice heard, and that’s one of the biggest impacts that CVC makes.”
CVC’s brand reputation has also resulted in several unique opportunities for its members. “Since VC is so small, it typically takes 10 to 15 years to get into the industry,” Jacobs noted. “We’ve only been around for five years, and we’ve already had several alums get into venture capital.”
Jacobs also believes that an organization like CVC provides direct value to Cornell’s entrepreneurial ecosystem. “The more alums Cornell gets into venture capital, the more eyes there will be on Cornell startups. That creates significant opportunities down the line for investment.”
Beyond that, the club expects many of its members can use what they’ve gained in VC in developing their own businesses. Both VCs and entrepreneurs share a common goal of making businesses grow, and need to solve critical challenges along the way to do so.
“VC is the essential bridge between the garage startup and the big time corporation,” says CVC Chief Operating Officer Sacheth Hegde. “CVC lets students actually work with these VCs, develop connections, and understand their thought process. That helps incredibly in thinking about entrepreneurship at a macro level.”
Jacobs echoes this sentiment. “The number one question you’ll get when you start a company is, ‘What’s your background?’ Having an experience like this gives you a good experience and good skills to be able to answer that question with. We’re young, but I see a big shift in our members making a lot of great startups in the future.”
For more on Cornell Venture Capital and its members, visit its website.