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Thursday, December 7, 2023

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Computer science major Paige Doherty and team adviser John McMillian at SDSU's William E. Leonhard Entrepreneurship Center. Computer science major Paige Doherty and team adviser John McMillian at SDSU's William E. Leonhard Entrepreneurship Center.

SDSU Venture Capital Team Pays Off for Students and Alumni

Student teams have won accolades during a succession of national competitions.
By Kellie Woodhouse

It was all because of his training at San Diego State University that Ross Bundy knew the offer was a deal-breaker.
Investors had offered his San Diego biotech company a bundle of money—but inserted a somewhat hidden and convoluted clause that would allow them to dilute him and other founders on a whim. 

“I said, ‘No, this is really risky. We can’t take this,’” recalled Bundy, co-CEO of Cardea.

Bundy was well versed in the practices of venture capitalists. Several years ago while enrolled at SDSU, he was one of them—for all of 31 minutes.

Bundy received his MBA from the Fowler College of Business in 2012, the same year he participated on the university’s Venture Capital Investment Competition (VCIC) team. 

SDSU’s student teams have for years won accolades during the national VCIC competitions. The teams simulate venture capitalists (VCs) and evaluate real-world entrepreneurs during a 31-minute pitch. The students are then judged on their performance by successful practicing venture capitalists. 

SDSU’s undergraduate and MBA teams each won second place in VCIC’s West Coast regional finals this February, beating out dozens of other teams, including groups from the University of San Francisco and the University of California’s Berkeley, Los Angeles and San Diego campuses. In past years, SDSU teams have won the competition’s Entrepreneur’s Choice Award and consistently placed among VCIC’s top three competitors. 

Yet for Bundy, SDSU’s VCIC team had value well beyond the accolades. In the months before the event, the VCIC team practices relentlessly, holding mock pitch sessions with local entrepreneurs who are trying to launch their ventures and need help refining their funding pitches. 

“I don’t learn well in a lecture hall. I learn best by doing,” Bundy said. “With VCIC, we learned what a term sheet is, how these investment deals work, and how VCs can guide and protect a company.

“I learned that seeking VC funding isn’t really so frightening. That I could really pull it off.”

Once Bundy started Cardea, he came back to SDSU, this time to practice his pitches with the student team before presenting to investors. Bundy has since found success in the competitive startup world. His company raised $7.8 million in its latest round of funding. 

Current students find the VCIC participation valuable for the experience and the  high-level connections they make 

Computer science major Paige Doherty received an internship offer from a private equity firm after competing this February. Like Bundy, Doherty agreed that participating in VCIC helped her understand that a career in the start-up world was attainable. The junior and her teammates met dozens of successful entrepreneurs and venture capitalists through VCIC. 

“It’s not just the competition, it’s the people that you meet. They are the ones that are going to be heading up firms in the future,” she said. “The most valuable part is hearing everyone’s stories and realizing this is a viable career path.

John McMillian, VCIC adviser and a program director for university research advancement, said the venture capital team and its string of successes is just another way “SDSU consistently punches above its weight in research, academics, and student success.”

“Our achievements are a testament to the type of students at SDSU,” he said. “They are intelligent, hard-working, and ready to take on any challenge.”