mailVU Helps UMD Students Prep for Real World

Nov 30th 2010 at 7:36 PM


An invitation to pitch at the Venture Capital Investment Competition (VCIC) at the University of Maryland’s Robert H. Smith School of Business culminated a busy week for our free video mail service mailVU.

Fresh off the Internet Summit in Raleigh, mailVU execs headed up the coast on Nov. 19 as one of three companies invited to make their pitches to six teams of MBA students and a panel of judges.

VCIC began in 1998 as an experiment at the University of North Carolina, designed to help students understand the procedures involved with funding innovative companies. According to UNC’s VCIC web site, the experiment has flourished and now includes 50 events on four continents with 1,000 students, 150 venture capitalists and 100 entrepreneurs participating.

Brian Walsh, an MBA student set to graduate from Maryland in May 2011, helped coordinate the event with the school’s Entrepreneurship Club. He explained that the prep work for the competition begins several months in advance as the club seeks out businesses and networks with known venture capital firms.

“We try to find companies competing students haven’t heard of; that the judges haven’t heard of,” Walsh said. The student teams receive business plans and financials for the companies two days before the main event.

On the last day, businesses get to make their pitches to student ‘venture capitalists’ while real VCs look on. After the presentations, the student teams speak to each entrepreneur individually, choose one business to ‘invest’ in and negotiate terms. Later, the real-life VCs give feedback to the students.

“VCIC was a great opportunity to meet venture-minded MBA students and venture capitalists. The event was very well run, and a great experience for all participants,” said mailVU CEO Alan Fitzpatrick.

Like most who are introduced to mailVU’s video mail service, everyone came away fascinated.

“I was very much impressed with your business plan and of course your business prospects generally,” wrote Donald Baker in an email to mailVU. Baker is a founding partner with technology business law firm Safford and Baker. He is also an investor with Capital Access Network (CAN) and served as one of the competition’s judges. “Congratulations on your very healthy progress to date.”

Walsh, who is working on a startup, agreed that sending video via email with mailVU was intriguing.

“I thought the product was really cool,” Walsh said. He is planning to get his team together to send a video email thank you to mailVU for its participation.

Walsh added that he found mailVU’s pitch to be done well.

“I thought they did a good job, they were very well rehearsed,” Walsh said, “They fit the profile and they worked well.”

The VCIC web site touts that the experience is a “win-win-win” for all involved with 25 percent of companies going on to receive funding from venture capitalists. Though financial backing is a major plus, the competition also allows an invaluable opportunity to entrepreneurs looking to pitch their businesses to several VCs at one time, while providing a learning opportunity for the next generation of business owners.

“I highly recommend the VCIC experience for other entrepreneurs as it provides useful feedback in making a pitch for investment capital,” Fitzpatrick said.

– Kamilla Gary Wyatt

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