By Jay Hodgkins
Newswise — The University of Virginia Darden School of Business has introduced a highly selective fellowship for MBAs seeking experience with early stage technology startups and mentorship from leading venture capitalists.
The Technology Venture Fellowship (TVF), developed last year by Darden’s Batten Institute for Entrepreneurship and Innovation, concluded its first cohort in mid-August. Each of the three fellows selected spent 10-week internships with high-growth ventures in the San Francisco Bay Area and Atlanta. Through projects, mentorship and coaching, they gained experience, a network of connections and inspiration to potentially pursue an entrepreneurial path after Darden. The 2017 fellows interned at San Francisco Bay Area-based startups ZeeMee and VSCO and Atlanta-based fintech startup Kabbage.
“I cannot imagine a better internship experience, and I’m simply blown away by the amount that I’ve learned in the past 10 weeks,” said Kyle Collins, who spent his fellowship at Kabbage. “I know that my work will have a lasting impact at Kabbage and that the skills that I’ve gained will have a lasting impact on my own career.”
TVF’s fall application cycle ensures that the summer placement process begins well before most other traditional internships are awarded. As a result, Darden students gain rare access to an industry that typically offers few internships to MBAs.
The TVF program is able to provide such unique access because of its sponsors — senior venture capitalists who participate directly in the interview process, agree to place the fellows in a tech startup within their portfolio of investments, work with the fellows and the companies to find the best mutual fit, and provide ongoing mentorship to the fellows throughout the summer.
This year, Glynn Capital Management founder John Glynn, a member of the Darden School Foundation Board of Trustees, and Jonathan Ebinger (MBA ’93), general partner at BlueRun Ventures and vice chair of the Batten Institute Advisory Council, served as the inaugural sponsors. Glynn sponsored one of the fellows, Whitney Hagan, at the mobile, photo-app startup VSCO, one of the ventures in Glynn’s portfolio. Ebinger sponsored Van Hatchell and Kyle Colllins at ZeeMee and Kabbage, both of which are in the portfolio of BlueRun Ventures, an early investor in PayPal and in the road navigation app Waze.
Ebinger said he once subscribed to the old narrative that the riskiness of Silicon Valley startups was not for MBAs presumed to be more risk averse, but he sees it differently now. And that’s why he signed on to sponsor the Technology Venture Fellows.
“An entrepreneur is a risk taker, but also a general manager,” he said. “They have to inspire investors, customers and employees. They have to have intuition and make good hires. That’s exactly what we teach students at Darden, so I’ve become more comfortable there is a real place for MBAs in an entrepreneurial ecosystem.”
The TVF program is different from the early stage venture internship programs offered by other business schools in several ways. The unique benefits include:
- Placement with venture capitalist portfolio ventures that are in greatest need of MBA talent to drive forward real business goals
- One-on-one mentorship and coaching from both venture founders and sponsoring venture capitalists
- A rich network of connections for students seeking to follow an entrepreneurial path after Darden
- A guaranteed salary of at least $16,000 for the summer, which includes $8,000 minimum compensation from the hiring venture and an $8,000 matching stipend from the Batten Institute
“Thanks to our Technology Venture Fellowship sponsors, we are able to offer compelling internship opportunities with tech startups that are typically impossible to secure otherwise,” said Sean Carr, executive director of the Batten Institute. “Moreover, our sponsors provide another entirely unique experience by serving as mentors and advisors to our MBA fellows.”
As more fellows complete internships and ideally gain a foothold in the venture capital or tech startup space in the future, Carr believes the Technology Venture Fellows program will benefit from a virtuous cycle where past fellows are able to offer new highly sought-after opportunities to the next generation. Ultimately, Carr said the program can give the Darden network a stronger foothold in the booming entrepreneurship space in top tech hot spots like the San Francisco Bay Area.
With the inaugural batch of fellows proving such a success, Batten expects to scale the number and scope of the TVF program substantially. Applications for 2018 fellows are due this fall, providing internships for selected First Year students by winter. Moving into its second year, the TVF program seeks to expand with a larger cohort of interns and the addition of new sponsors. Centerview Capital Technology Partner Ned Hooper (MBA ’94) has already signed on to join Glynn and Ebinger as a third venture capital sponsor next year.
Glynn sees a bright future for the program, and its impact on the quality and type of students who will want to come to Darden.
“Every year, more young people want to come to Silicon Valley and understand this world better and pursue opportunities with rapidly growing entrepreneurial companies,” Glynn said. “We can really beef up this program with a few more students and a few more sponsors, and then it will really affect the applicant pool."
The University of Virginia Darden School of Business delivers the world’s best business education experience to prepare entrepreneurial, global and responsible leaders through its MBA, Ph.D. and Executive Education programs. Darden’s top-ranked faculty is renowned for teaching excellence and advances practical business knowledge through research. Darden was established in 1955 at the University of Virginia, a top public university founded by Thomas Jefferson in 1819 in Charlottesville, Virginia.