The Mentored Study program at Duke’s Fuqua School of Business provided the perfect fit for me to further explore my previous experience in venture capital in a real-world work setting while gaining exposure to the tech industry.
I was fortunate to complete both a Fuqua-sourced project at a startup named Tablee, a technology platform that enables service on-demand for hospitality venues, as well as a self-sourced experience at New Stack Ventures.
Each experience provided different opportunities and challenges as I sat on different sides of the table in my roles with each organization. This provided me with a more well-rounded perspective of being able to play the role of investor/deal screener at New Stack, and venture finance/marketing lead for the series seed round at Tablee.
At New Stack Ventures, I led all inbound and outbound deal flow in a hybrid remote-on-site structure, which provided flexibility to get my hands dirty in the office with the team on certain days while also providing the ability to get work done remotely from Durham during nights and weekends and ad hoc.
Based on the positive experience at New Stack, I was able to structure a similar setup with Tablee. But the role was the reverse. Instead of screening founders seeking investment, I was tasked with building the seed round strategy from scratch. I targeted the highest match investors at the earliest stages and made introductions between the founder and potential investors after helping to perfect the pitch deck.
Balancing being a student at Fuqua, extracurriculars, and Mentored Study projects that were located outside of Durham posed a slight, but not insurmountable, logistical challenge. Fortunately, the Raleigh-Durham International Airport provided easy and cheap flights on the occasional Fridays that I would fly to the home office in Chicago to meet with the local teams respectively.
Once I clearly communicated expectations for my bandwidth and laid out project milestones and expectations, in both cases my mentors were very understanding and easy to work with remotely.
Being able to personalize my experiential learning at Fuqua to achieve my own professional goals was one of the main differentiators of my MBA experience. From these two experiences, I learned the mindset of both sides of the table when negotiating term sheets, which has helped me become a more authentic and generally better venture investor.