Two Days Prior to Event

5:00 p.m. – Receive Pitch Decks

After you consent to the VCIC non-disclosure agreement, you will receive business plans and a fund profile by email at 5pm in the host school’s time zone. You have less than two days to do a month’s worth of due diligence. It is imperative that your team has a strategy for handling this workload. During this time your team needs to:

  • Thoroughly research ALL of the startups. Do not dismiss one because you do not plan to offer a term sheet. At the event, you’ll need to perform well in front of all the judges, who will be split into different rooms during due diligence sessions.
  • Utilize your school’s resources and network. That’s how VCs would do it! VCIC is a great excuse to connect with entrepreneurial alumni and expand your professional network. There is no longer a rule preventing outside help. Take advantage of that freedom!
  • Fully prepare for due diligence sessions, including a list of questions and a strategy for each entrepreneur. Practice your questions with your teammates and coaches. Figure out a system so that you are not stepping all over each other nor shotgunning through a pre-decided list. Judges will want to see you hearing the answers and pivoting on the fly, digging in when appropriate.
  • Customize the deliverables template (click to make your own copy) and begin filling in some of the blanks so that you can quickly make changes at the event rather than starting from scratch.
  • Create ready-to-go spreadsheets and/or other materials so that your team is prepared to plug in numbers on the fly at the event. You will not have time to create spreadsheets from scratch (e.g., cap tables, exit scenarios, valuation analysis). You are not required to submit these materials (though you do have up to 3 pages for attachments), but you may need them to answer judges’ questions. Some teams submit them as appendices to the written deliverables. Be warned that complicated appendices may hurt more than they help, especially if there is ANY mistake in them. Judges are pressed for time, too.

Evening before Event

We recommend you arrive the evening before at the latest. Get settled. Get a good night’s sleep. Practice your questions with each other in the hotel room. The specific words you use, the tone you adopt, the flow your team achieves…all of these will make a difference in due diligence sessions tomorrow. Try to anticipate some of the answers and be ready with follow-up questions. Don’t ask anything that you should already know! You don’t have time for that.

Day of Event

Most MBA events are on Fridays. Most undergraduate events are on Saturdays.

8:00 a.m. – Team Check-In

You’ll have a chance to check out the facilities, find your study room, connect to the host school’s WiFi and generally get the lay of the land. Arrive on time and go to your study room to continue preparing for due diligence. Usually some simple food and coffee is provided (check with host school).

8:45 a.m. – Startup Pitches

Each startup has 10-12 minutes to pitch. No questions are allowed during the presentations. Slides are not distributed, other than whatever materials were emailed prior to the event. Take good notes and be prepared to ask specific questions during due diligence that follow up on assertions made by the founders.

10:00 a.m. – Due Diligence

After watching the presentations, each team will have 14-minutes with each entrepreneur followed by 3-minutes with the judges. This session is your chance to get any information you need directly from the entrepreneur to make your decision. It is also the first opportunity you have to show off in front of judges, who will only get to score your performance with one entrepreneur (they can only be in one place at a time). Hence, your team needs to be on its game for all Q&A sessions.

Most common mistake: pre-deciding you are not interested in a startup and consequently doing a poor job in the Q&A for that startup. The result is that 1/3 of the judges will score you poorly. You MUST nail all the due diligence session, no matter how interested you are in actually making the investment.

Rookie mistake #2: running through a list of question and not listening to the answers nor adjusting on the fly. You’ve got to dig and pivot! The judges want to see that you know what information you need and that you are skilled at getting it. If a founder evades a question, be sure to follow up, but be cognizant of the need to build rapport, especially if you intend to put a term sheet down for this deal. Generally it is better if all teammates participate in the Q&A, though you should come with a strategy that fits your team. For example, if you have a teammate or two who are not great verbal communicators, you might introduce them as analysts who will be taking notes, or figure out some other way to explain the value they are bringing.

Questions to consider for due diligence:

  • Who asks the questions? Are we all equally skilled at asking questions?
  • Is there someone who should not ask questions? Who decides which questions to ask? Who decides when we move on to the next question or when we probe further for the information we are seeking?
  • How do we handle talkative or reticent entrepreneurs?
  • How do we create “rapport” with entrepreneurs?
  • What is our technique for getting good answers, not just asking questions?
  • Do we have a tone we’d like to take? Are we friendly? Enthused? Poker-faced? Rushed? Are we united in tone? Good cop, bad cop?
  • How do we balance showing the judges what we know or getting information out of the entrepreneur?
  • Do we pretend that we care about the answers even if we already know we would not invest in this entrepreneur?
  • Should we express our interest or apathy in the deal?
  • Should we try and negotiate preliminary deal terms during the session?
  • Should we use the same strategy with all entrepreneurs or try different techniques?

Due Diligence Judging Criteria:

  • Arrived well prepared
  • Learned what they needed to know / covered key questions
  • Dug into key issues
  • Deeply understood business opportunity
  • Lead/controlled the meeting
  • Established appropriate rapport
  • Demonstrated value as a VC firm

1:10 p.m. – Written Deliverables

You only have a couple of hours to make strategic investment decisions and finalize deliverables (and eat lunch). The executive summary covers all deals: why you will or will not invest. Make sure it explains your investment decision. Be sure to prioritize bullets to make your analysis clear. Be aware that judges are under extreme time pressure, too, and if you over complicate things, even if it is brilliant, it may distract. You have up to three pages of appendices to further make your point (with graphs, charts, comparables or whatever). Teams are highly encouraged to use the supplied Team Deliverables Template. If you are feeling lost with pre-money valuation and investment size, make sure to watch the training videos and take a look at the VC Razor return analysis worksheet.

Judges will receive your deliverables approximately five minutes before you enter the room for your Partner Meeting.

Written Deliverables Judging Criteria:

  • Quality/effectiveness of materials submitted
  • Overall decision, pros and cons of each startup
  • Appropriate terms for deal chosen
  • Realistic and well researched exit analysis
  • Clear path to exit, including growth strategy and future funding

1:30 p.m. – Panel Partner Meetings

Each team sits down with the judging panel around a boardroom table. No PowerPoints! The judges will have just received your written deliverables, and you’ll have 10 minutes to explain your investment decision to the judges and demonstrate your VC abilities. This session simulates an investment committee partner meeting in which junior partners or associates bring in a deal. You have the floor for this session, but you should expect to be interrupted.

Rookie mistake #1: starting by asking if they have any questions.

Judges will have plenty of questions, but you need to start the conversation, just as an associate at the firm would begin by explaining the deal. You should assume the judges have barely started reading your written materials (as they will have just received them). The best teams have something planned for this! Get a strategy to woo the judges.

Rookie mistake #2: starting by walking through the term sheet.

Okay, you could do it that way, but it is not showing much imagination, and it is setting you up for a deep dive into terms. Again, figure out a strategy for this session and practice with your local coaches before you come. Perhaps start with 20 seconds of effusive thanks for everyone giving up their day to be here. Maybe gush a little over the startups that you could not choose, pointing out their positive attributes even though they were not a fit for you. Find your voice!

Rookie mistake #3: assuming you’re losing if the judges are being harsh.

The tone of these meetings is difficult to predict, as the individuals on the judging panel will be different from region to region and from year to year. However, you should expect a tough session, as this is typical of real VC partner meetings. VCs are really harsh with one another; it is a part of the culture. So, don’t assume their being harsh to you is a bad thing. The opposite is often true: they are NICE when they think you have no chance of winning. If they are being TOUGH, it is a sign of respect. They’re treating you more like peers than students.

Also, be aware that it can be difficult for judges to differentiate between numerous smart, well-prepared teams. One way the judges may try to do this is to dig deep into some deal terms to see how deep your team’s knowledge goes. This can feel like an unfair focus on a technical nuance but is (arguably) a reasonable strategy to identify the most knowledgeable team.

If they are digging hard and sounding harsh, it is often an indicator that your team is a contender. Take it as a sign of confidence and step into it!

3:20 p.m. – Individual Partner Meetings  (New in 2022)

These are one-on-one sessions with 1-2 judges per team. Teams stay put in their study rooms and judges will rotate through, 7 minutes at a time. The criteria here are the same as the panel meeting, but this time you’ll get more interactions and they will be more personal. Be on the lookout for how differently each judge approaches the investment opportunity. They will not be the same! Your success will be dependent on your team’s knowledge, charisma and ability to adapt based on the individual in front of you. Think of this as an extra credit round giving you one last chance to win over the most judges.

Partner Meetings Judging Criteria:

  • Demonstrated deep VC knowledge, terms, exit strategy, vocabulary, return potential, fund fit, etc.
  • Adequately explained rationale of chosen deal
  • Handled questions/coaching
  • Confident and convincing
  • All members contributed

4:30 p.m. – Awards Ceremony and Networking

Pretty self-explanatory. Winners will be announced. Most judges will immediately depart, but some may stick around for more casual feedback.

5:00 p.m. – Offsite Networking Event — DO NOT SKIP THIS!!

Past participants strongly encourage you to take advantage of this networking session where you will connect with other students who share your interest in venture capital. This is a rare opportunity to expand your professional network with peers who are as interested as you are in getting into VC. For those of you who are highly motivated to pursue this career, the contacts you make at VCIC can be invaluable.

Morning after the Event

Recommended departure time for traveling teams.