What a whirlwind Michaelmas has been – I am grateful to use this post to take a step back and reflect on all of the incredible moments/people/places/experiences of this term.
Besides getting to know my diverse and impressive classmates and taking unbelievable bonding trips to London, Berlin and Helsinki – the defining activity of this term for me has been the Oxford Seed Fund.
For background, the Oxford Seed Fund (OSF) is a student-led venture capital fund that helps brilliant Oxonians make the Oxford difference through their ventures. We invest up to £50,000 in the top Oxford-affiliated startups and provide them with the network and support they need to scale. As the Managing Director of OSF, I interviewed and selected the other 10 MBA student directors and am leading us through the process of sourcing deals through Michaelmas/Hilary and performing due diligence on potential investments in Hilary/Trinity.
My professional background is in Investment Banking, so I understand the process of pitching, capital raising, due diligence and term sheets but had never before done this at the seed level or from a venture perspective.
To get both me and the OSF team up to speed on the VC landscape ASAP, on the day of our first official meeting in October we took the train to London and had a “VC 101” teach-in with Adrian Lloyd (Oxford alum) from Episode1 ventures. I was absolutely floored with how generous Adrian was with his time, his thoughtful 101 presentation and his openness to all of our questions. In this term alone OSF has been back to London for meetings with Chris Corbishley MacBain from Forward Partners, where he talked us through their operating model and walked us through an investment case study, and with Tom Wilson and Kyran Schmidt at SeedCamp, where we talked through their application and what they look for in entrepreneurs.
The generosity with time and information is not only in London – I also attended the Oxford Foundry Demo Day in September where the first LEV8 cohort of entrepreneurs pitched their companies, and I have had follow up meetings on how OSF can further partner with the Foundry (as they are just across the street from SBS!).
Finally – 9 directors of OSF were able to attend SLUSH, the largest startup and investor conference in Europe, in Helsinki last week. I am still processing all of the information on trends in European startups/VC that I gathered and following up with the amazing people that I met. Many of us received job offers from startups on the spot. I was also able to attend the Female Founder Office Hours event, where female VC directors shared valuable insights to female founders looking to raise capital. A few critical takeaways – women come in and talk about the business they have BUILT, and anchor their valuation on that. Men come in and talk about the business they are GOING TO BUILD, and anchor their valuation on that. (The right answer is probably in the middle, but by starting from so far behind women end up asking for less money). This stems from the inherent bias that leads women to be judged on track record and men to be judged on potential. Emotional connection is a critical aspect of VC investing – if the venture table looks diverse, a whole separate group of people (entrepreneurs) will resonate with them. I have so much more to say about SLUSH but will save that for a separate post!
OSF thus far has been a crash course on how to effectively manage peers towards a common goal, how to balance learning/development/career recruiting, and how to balance running an organisation while being a full-time student. I am super excited to take the Entrepreneurial Finance elective next term, where we will be learning how to perform due diligence on startups at the same time as I will be actually doing it with OSF. This correlation defines the experiential learning experience that I was seeking from the Oxford MBA.
Looking forward to an exciting holiday break – my brother is studying in Germany so my family will be coming here and we will be travelling through Germany/Austria, and I will be spending NYE at a castle in France with 35 other MBAs!
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