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Students draw on industry experience and approachability to win real-world competition  
Hunter Ford, Stefano Caprirolo, and Saajan Sappal, a team of students from the VCU School of Business, won the 4th annual National Undergraduate Venture Cup at the University of Virginia on April 14, 2018.
The team brought a well-rounded perspective, representing three academic departments. Ford is a senior majoring in marketing and finance. Caprirolo is a senior majoring in finance with a minor in economics, and Sappal is a junior majoring in finance and economics.
Teams were charged with emulating a venture capital firm, meeting with and evaluating different real-world start-ups to consider investment opportunities. “You can feel the drive and passion these entrepreneurs have for their businesses, and that adds a new dimension that is rarely covered in academia: the psychology of negotiation and due diligence,” reported Caprirolo.
After the meetings, they submitted a term sheet and market research for the start-up they selected for investment, then presented to the investment committee (panel of judges), followed by Q&A. 
Prepared by experience
“Hunter, Saajan and I have all been working/interning at investment banks or other finance-related institutions throughout college, building a strong foundation of how businesses in the LMM (lower-middle-market) and start-ups operate, and how to value them. 
“This was a huge difference-maker when preparing the deliverables. Since we already had experience within the industry, we knew ‘exactly’ what they expected as investors, and entrepreneurs,” said Caprirolo. Teams were judged on what questions they asked the founders, quality and fairness of the term sheet (valuation, ratchets, option pools, etc.), and the presentation and Q&A with the judges. 
A friendly approach pays off
“The other big differentiator was the way we conducted ourselves throughout the event,” said Caprirolo. “As the finance professors at VCU say: ‘The devil is in the details’ (looking at you, Jim Carney and Dan Salandro.) 
“While every other team wore suits, we wore vests. While every other team conducted aggressive due diligence sessions, we conducted friendly/informal ones (cracking a joke here and there), and still managed to get the same or even more information from the entrepreneurs.”
The competition took place at the University of Virginia McIntire School of Commerce, hosted by the student-run Virginia Venture Fund in conjunction with the Galant Center for Entrepreneurship, Quantitative Foundation, and the Jefferson Trust. Participating universities included: 
  • Carnegie Mellon
  • James Madison University
  • NYU
  • University of Chicago
  • University of Maryland
  • University of Michigan
  • University of Virginia (3 teams)
  • Virginia Commonwealth University
  • William & Mary 
Congratulations to our VCU School of Business winning team! Go Rams!
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