High Value to MBA Students Through Venture Capital Investment Competition

CSUEB’s 2021 VCIC team. Clockwise from top left: Tugba Ucar, Deepak Mohan, Sridhar Pilli, Vinoth Gunasekaran, Paul McDonald and Cindy Hon

The Venture Capital Investment Competition (VCIC) is the world's largest venture capital competition. Students from over 120 universities and graduate schools emulate the strategies of a venture capitalist through intense analysis of the business models and growth potential of real technology companies. They prepare negotiations with the principals of these companies and detailed contractual proposals, all overseen by judges from Silicon Valley venture capital firms. It does not get more intense than this.  

Cal State East Bay was once again invited to compete against four California universities:UC Berkeley, University of San Francisco, San Diego State University and Santa Clara University. A team of six Cal State East Bay MBA students started training for the competition in December 2020, bringing expertise from very different educational and work backgrounds. Notably, they were only able to meet online due to COVID-19 restrictions. One of the members, Tugba Ucar, was located in Azerbaijan, which made things even more challenging. However, none of these challenges stopped them from growing and learning as a team, and being united in reaching their ultimate goal: to represent Cal State East Bay in the best way possible. 

Other schools had the benefit of  venture capital classes and internal competitions to prepare for the actual competition. It was quite intimidating, but it never distracted or demotivated the team. With the help of professors Glen Taylor, Alex Makarevich and Izzet Darendelli, the East Bay team started holding regular meetings and training for the competition.

The event began with attending presentations by all start-ups for the teams to learn about each company and begin analyzing its viability. Then, the team prepared due diligence questions for each start-up and held 14-minute interviews to determine proper valuation. The time was very limited compared to the amount of work that needed to be done. As a part of the third and last part, the team was interviewed by the jury and asked questions on their final decisions. 

Although Cal State East Bay did not win the competition, the team was among three schools with the correct investment decision and the only team with an accurate start-up valuation. Alex Makarevich, Assistant Professor of Management, recognized the extra commitment made by a team of East Bay students who challenged themselves to excel and he expressed pride for their hard work and achievements. 


Deep Learning from Competition Challenge

The students described significant value for the entire experience and gratitude to the faculty members who supported them throughout.

Tugba Ucar, MBA for Global Innovators

“It was a challenging, stressful and exhausting journey but it was also one of the most rewarding and educational experiences in our lives. Towards the end of the competition, our energy levels were low. We could not even give proper signals so other team members can take over when the other team member felt stuck since everything was being held online. Although we were competing against teams who have been training very aggressively, we had the will and the gut feeling that we were definitely on the right track. Lastly and most importantly, this unique experience gave us an opportunity to challenge ourselves and get out of our comfort zone, and I will do it all over again.”

Sridhar Pilli, MBA for Global Innovators

“Money can't buy the learning experience that I was able to obtain through representing CSUEB at VCIC competition. The support that our team received from the Leadership, Program Director, Individual advisors, financial support, administrative staff and alumni has been phenomenal and that made our steep learning experience extremely smooth in such a short time. This competition is as real as it can get and the learning experience playing the role of a VC for a day enabled me to connect the dots at a deeper level in taking an idea through various stages of funding and exit. This is a life changing experience to me and clearly gave me tools and confidence towards walking down this path, balancing out when and how much to raise, which startups to fund and why and the levers available to negotiate both as an entrepreneur and as VC.”

Cindy Hon, MBA for Global Innovators

“Getting through a highly stressful and eye-opening competition with my fellow teammates is unforgettable. VCIC is truly an excellent opportunity for students to gain industry insights, build connections with venture capitalists, and understand how funding works from both the VCs and entrepreneurs’ perspectives. On a personal level, I have learnt so much outside of the classroom and better prepared myself to tackle future challenges. This might be the most valuable experience of the whole MBA program.” 

Deepak Mohan, MBA for Global Innovators

“I enrolled for the VCIC competition with zero knowledge about the venture capital world. I was lucky enough to be in a team where the majority of the teammates were my classmates from the Global innovators MBA program. Each one of us were from different professional backgrounds which gave a lot of perspective towards the preparation of competition. It was a fun learning experience over a period of 2 months and everyone in the team taught me something which I will treasure forever. I was really happy with our team's performance in the competition and to me we were winners with the knowledge we acquired during this period. Overall, I enjoyed the time I spent with the team and learned a lot as part of the competition.” 

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