I meet with a lot of people from the academic world, so I thought it would be helpful to summarize how ff Venture Capital works with universities. Our main goals are: to understand the cutting edge of new disciplines; meet potential founders/employees; and also to help the broader technology and research community.
Currently, our relationship works along several axes. We/I:
- Recruit star students as interns and employees.
Year-round, ffVC tries to have 2-3 full-time or near-full-time (30+ hours/week) interns. Our portfolio companies are currently seeking to fill over 190 open openings; ffVC also currently has several full-time open jobs. Developers and designers are in especially high demand, but our portfolio companies are also hiring in sales, marketing, operations, accounting, business development, security, media, customer service, recruiting, engineering, and QA. We’re more than happy to act as a matchmaker.
- Partner with students to execute research on topics of mutual interest.
For example, in 2011-12 I worked with a team of three Columbia MBAs (past and future McKinsey and BCG consultants) on a research study on “Best Practices of Venture Capitalists in Increasing the Value of Portfolio Companies.” I provided research materials, guidance, and introductions to interviewees (VCs, entrepreneurs, accelerators, etc.) We published the paper in the Journal of Private Equity and numerous other influential media. The students got an A, and the paper was the most-read paper in the Journal for the year following publication. Students benefit from addressing real life business challenges, the opportunity to get published, and exposure to potential employers who get to see these potential employees/ entrepreneurs in action. Learn more about other research we’d like to pursue with students here.
- Look for opportunities to collaborate on new ventures.
We are particularly receptive to working with student teams to explore new businesses we can start on the platform of two great domain names which we have significant stakes in, patents.com and alerts.com. If you have ideas, we’d love to hear them.
- Informally advise some university-based angel group initiatives.
I view Harvard Business School Alumni Angels of Greater New York, now the largest angel group on the East Coast by headcount, as a template for what other schools and organizations can build. I am in dialogue with several universities/organizations who want to launch parallel angel initiatives.
- Present on campus as a guest speaker.
My colleagues and I have presented at universities including Columbia Business School, UC Berkeley Haas, National University of Singapore, New York University, Technion Israel Institute of Technology MBA Program, Wharton School, and Yale School of Management.
As a July 2016 update: ffVC is partnering with NYU to launch a lab focused on artificial intelligence. I’m very excited that ffVC can announce that we are (to our knowledge) the first VC in the country to partner with a university on a startup-launching initiative. Kudos to my colleague Ryan, Managing Director, for his work leading this initiative. For more, see NYU Partners with Venture Firm to Make City a Hub for Startups Using Artificial Intelligence.
We welcome new ideas on how to work with the university community!
Photo: Steinbach and Evans Halls of the Yale School of Management. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)