Having started three startups in pharmaceutical, agriculture, and herbal medicine in my home country, Zimbabwe, and realizing that there was no funding and connections big enough to grow startups to the level I expected, I started to wonder if the time was right for me to jump borders and test the ‘American dream’ across the oceans. But to successfully do that, I needed a school in the US that would not only open doors into a startup community but one that has a global mindset since I had realized how important cross-cultural communication and intercultural empathy is in business. My numerous business trips to China had ignited in me a passion to pursue an understanding of diversity and intercultural empathy. Ultimately, I learned Mandarin to communicate better with my suppliers.
As a result of these factors, I found myself at Thunderbird in August 2021. At Thunderbird, mostly because of my startup experience, among other factors, I was awarded Thunderbird’s most prestigious scholarship, the SHARE fellow Scholarship.
My plan for coming to Thunderbird was threefold, to learn and network in the startup and venture capital space, to contribute meaningfully to the Thunderbird community within the same space, and ultimately to become a bridge of resource development for startups in Africa, linking the American capital to the immense opportunities in Africa. Given the nature of syllabi at Thunderbird, I was certain I would emerge with skills to raise capital and manage projects across different nations.
My experiences at Thunderbird have been a dream come true. I did not waste time when choosing my electives as I took classes that aligned with startup investing, valuation of private firms, and entrepreneurship. These classes were phenomenal. I enjoyed these classes and learned a lot of things attending them. However, I thought there was a need for a club that would give students more opportunities to network with Alumni in the space, so when Professor Rebecca Hwang suggested in one of our lectures that there was a need to have some people champion the setting up of a student club I jumped on the occasion.
I consulted with June Lau, and we formed the Venture Capital and Private Equity Club in April 2022. The club has had almost 100 members in its WhatsApp group since its inception.
The club is on a mission to educate and empower students in the Venture Capital and Private Equity space. It creates meaningful networking opportunities between students interested in the industry with the relevant alumni and organizations in the industry. Currently, the club is bringing in opportunities for students to have practical hands-on experience evaluating companies and doing due diligence. We are also partnering with local organizations to make this possible.
The club provides training and prepares students to participate in VC/PE competitions. Currently on the radar is the VCIC Competition that is set to occur on the 3rd of February 2023 in Denver, Colorado, and we are sending a formidable team of competitive individuals. The VCIC competition gives students an opportunity to work as Venture Capitalists for a day, making investment decisions into real-life companies. It is an exciting yet immensely demanding competition that brings a lot of learning and networking within a short period of time.
The experiences of the club, in combination with the relevant classes in investing, are a great way for people to leverage into venture capital or startups. Students at Thunderbird can leverage the resources and transition into venture capital even without a background in the field. Just like what I did myself, I landed an internship with a venture capital firm in the summer. That is another crucial function of the club; providing the members with information and skills to brand themselves and make them ready to transition into the VC/PE career paths. The club holds biweekly meetings with guests from VC and PE spaces to share their insights and perspectives. These meetings are opportunities for members to network with senior executives in the space.
Going forward, we are planning to create a dorm fund at the school, where students will make investment decisions in consultation with the faculty. As we are working with the faculty members and the administration to set up the dorm fund, the club is also networking with alumni in the startup space to create a deal flow for the dorm fund investee companies. Preliminary arrangements are that the investment panel may invest in companies that are owned by Thunderbird Alum or current students.
If you are passionate about startups and you want to learn, build a network, and transition into VC or startup-related roles in the future, the VC/PE club is a place to be.