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"Bonding" With Entrepreneurs Sets Winner Apart in Venture Capital Investment Competition

In the closest results in the history of the event, Bluth Venture Partners won the Fifth Annual Glencoe Capital Venture Capital Investment Competition by successfully connecting with the entrepreneurs seeking funding, said David Evans, ’91, chairman of Glencoe Capital, LLC a sponsor of the event.

“One way they distinguished themselves was that the style with which they engaged the entrepreneur in their final presentation was very effective in a business-like way,” said Evans, who also served as a judge. “One-third to one-half of the business is bonding with people. We thought they did that very well.”

In the annual contest, students acting as mock venture firms hear pitches from actual entrepreneurs and evaluate real business plans. Student teams performed due diligence, draft investment memos and term sheets, and, in a new twist to the format this year, each student team negotiated its drafted term sheet directly with the entrepreneurs in front of a panel of judges who are professional venture capitalists. 

Bluth, which included second-year students Jasper Platz, Jim Shilkett, Greg Foster, Lisa Pinsley, and Matt Mettler, edged out five other Chicago Booth teams at Harper Center on January 23 to advance to the regional round of the 2009 national competition in February at the University of Colorado. MvdR Capital finished second.

Judges agreed this year’s six competing Booth finalists — narrowed from a record number of 26 teams that applied to participate in the competition — represented the school’s finest field yet. “Every team was in the hunt,” Evans said.

Scott Meadow, clinical professor of entrepreneurship and faculty advisor for the event, said, “Any team could have represented us in the next round in a way that would have gone beyond my expectations.”

Despite the tight race for a winner, Bluth won the nod from both the panel of eight judges as well as the three entrepreneurs who participated in the event..

Bluth spent much time and energy refining its negotiating style, Mettler said. “We were very laid-back and relaxed and had a pretty natural dialogue with the entrepreneur,” he said. “That really carried us a long way in this competition.”

 “Advanced coaching” from Booth faculty helped Bluth tremendously, Foster said. “There would have been a lot more diversity in styles in how we negotiated, had we not undergone the upfront preparation sessions,” he said. “We had a fairly similar cadence in how we went about doing it, which helped a lot.”

Before coming to Booth, Pinsley had no idea exactly what a venture capitalist does, she said. “I think it speaks to the quality of the entrepreneurship classes we’ve taken that I can even talk the talk and go in and know about multiple models and all the different terms on a VC analysis sheet,” she said.

The competition was valuable for giving Bluth the opportunity to apply everything they’ve learned in courses taught by Meadow; Steven Kaplan, Neubauer Family Professor of Entrepreneurship and Finance; and James Schrager, clinical professor of entrepreneurship and strategic management, Shilkett said.

“We got to take a look at a deal with no training wheels and to integrate all the industry analyses, valuations, term structure and deal sheets, and lessons we’ve received in the last year and a half,” he said. “That’s the practice of actual venture capital investing as it’s taught.”

— Phil Rockrohr