In the shoes of a venture capitalist
On March 15th and 16th, 90 HEC Paris Master’s students from Affiliate Professor Olivier Younès’ "Inside Venture Capital" course were to act as Venture Capitalists to convince a jury of senior partners from numerous investment funds to invest in a chosen IT or biotech start-up. Top VCs from Banexi Ventures, ISAI, DFJ Esprit, 360 Capital Partners, CM-CIC, Amundi, Omnès Capital, Quadrille, XAnge, Microsoft Ventures and several business angels from the Silicon Valley traveled from San Francisco, London and France to take part in the jury.
The course participants teamed up in groups of five to convince the jury to enter the contemplating deal for the start-up they chose. In a ten-minute presentation, they had to discuss investment thesis, business model, teamwork, due diligence, valuation, shareholders’ agreement salient clauses and potential exit routes. Seasoned VCs then discussed the pitch and its quality before giving their feedback to students, explaining how professional the pitch was and why they would invest in the start-up or not.
Following the successful presentation for a soon-to-be-launched Polish start-up called Samokup.pl, we discussed with five international Grande Ecole Master Students- Robin Ali (France), Gonzalo Grande (Spain), Giacomo Genzini (Italy), Martin Florea (Germany), Piotr Dziadosz (Poland) - on why they decided to choose the “Inside VC” course and the helpful insights they learnt from it.
When asked why they chose the course, their reasons varied: "I don’t want to be a VC in the short term, but I’d like to work in the entrepreneurship business, so I think it’s absolutely necessary to know what is going on on the VC side. I might consider becoming a VC later on," said one participant.
"It’s one of the courses that comes closest to the concept of innovation at HEC Paris; and since we are involved in technical studies here, it’s great to participate in courses that interact with this sector" - added another participant.
While explaining how tough it is to find a start-up that will agree to share its data, the group commented that the diversity within their team helped them to broaden their perspective and to be at the forefront of the start-up offer.
On their interaction with the jury, the group concluded: “It was the first time we interacted with professional investors and that we were actually evaluated by them. It was really challenging for us to get some feedback from experts in the field.”
Oliver Younès, besides being an HEC Affiliate Professor focusing on entrepreneurship, private equity and venture capital – and after a ten-year successful track-record as a VC - is also the founding CEO of EXPEN, an advisory company for entrepreneurs and private equity. Leveraging his experience, Olivier Younès considers a VC needs to be “the entrepreneur behind the entrepreneur” (quoting Sequoia Capital), and wants the class participants to behave as entrepreneurs in the finance industry and not as traders or investment bankers.
His three-week course, spread over 18 hours of classes, teaches HEC Paris students to act and negotiate like a Venture Capitalist, at every stage of the cycle: from raising funds from limited partners, investing in a start-up, managing the investor’s portfolio as a professional shareholder and a board member, to exiting from the company to reveal the targeted capital gain.