2018 Tech Venture Fellows Reflect on Summer Internships
As previously noted, there is a growing interest in Tech careers among Darden students, and many exciting ways for students to explore this interest during their time in Cville. Technology Club. Tech Week and Tech Conference. Course offerings. But do you know about the Technology Venture Fellows program?
Technology Venture Fellows (TVF) offers Darden students an intensive, operational experience with early-stage technology ventures during a 10-week fellowship. The purpose of this program is to embed Darden MBAs in high-potential, high-growth ventures, giving them hands-on project experience, mentorship and coaching, a rich network of connections and contacts, and the inspiration to follow an entrepreneurial path after Darden.
Interested in learning more? Check out the video with Darden’s 2018 Fellows below. And read on for additional insights from Director of West Coast Inititiaves, Robyn Swift, Associate Director, Career Education and Advising, Reid Thompson and Senior Director, Career Services, Jenny Zenner.
Why was the Tech Venture Fellows program created?
Robyn: In recent years, the number of Darden students interested in pursuing entrepreneurial paths or careers in technology post-graduation has increased dramatically. This can be seen in the overwhelming popularity of the Technology Club and Entrepreneurship & Venture Capital Club, as well as a sharp uptick in applications to the iLab Incubator’s summer accelerator program, and the rise of participants in the Batten Venture Internship Program.
In addition, the percentage of Darden graduates moving to the Bay Area upon graduation has also increased to 17 – 23% per year since 2010; resulting in the San Francisco Bay Area becoming one of the School’s top three alumni markets, and one of the more desired areas for student summer internships.
As interest in the Silicon Valley increased and opportunities to recruit with big tech companies accelerated, there still existed a desire among entrepreneurially-focused students to work for startup companies. In the Spring of 2016, Batten Institute leadership brought this challenge to UVA alumni in the venture capital space. The result was the two founding Tech Venture Fellows sponsors (Jonathan Ebinger and John Glynn) offering to place students in one of their portfolio companies for a 10-week summer internship in 2016.
Now, entering into its third year, the Technology Venture Fellows program is one of the more prestigious, competitive and transformational internship experiences for students who are passionate about technology, innovation and entrepreneurship. The program takes applications in the fall of First Year, giving students the opportunity to confirm their summer internship through the sponsoring firms, rather than gamble on a late-spring offer from startups that cannot always anticipate hiring needs more than 3-6 months in advance.
What impact do you think this program has had for students interested in Tech?
Robyn: The program has offered students a window into the tech scene through the lens of the venture capital industry, while at the same time providing on the ground, real-time experience in the fast-paced, dynamic startup environment.
The high-tempo and often lean nature of a startup means that students are afforded more opportunities to work across multiple company functions and take on leadership responsibilities they may not be offered in a bigger company with a more formalized and structured internship program.
Tech Venture Fellows learn first-hand that there is a post-MBA career path beyond consulting, banking or even BIG tech. If they can handle the ambiguity, students discover there is a wide world of innovation and entrepreneurship where the skills developed at Darden can be applied to great advantage. This is especially true for startups that have figured out the product-market fit and are entering the growth stage. And because most big tech firms are not far removed from this culture, these skills are equally valued at places like Google, Amazon, Microsoft, etc.
How does the Tech Venture Fellows (TVF) program allow a student who is potentially interested in entrepreneurship explore this career interest?
Reid: Entrepreneurship can mean a lot of things, from launching an idea to helping to build an early-stage business. TVF fills a niche for students looking to join a growth-stage company that’s further along than an early startup but has more runway and less certainty than a more established business. With TVF and our other programs (Batten Venture Internship Program (BVIP) and iLab Incubator), we can support students and their career interests at any stage of entrepreneurship.
What kind of student might consider the Tech Venture Fellows program for their summer internship?
Jenny: For future founders, TVF offers a chance to live the life of a startup while also developing relationships with a Venture Capital (VC) firm. Other students know they want to join a startup but aren’t the one with the idea, and TVF inserts them directly into a startup that has progressed past angel investing into VC funding. The VC opens a door otherwise not available at a startup without a formal internship program. In addition, for someone coming out of financial services who is interested in venture capital but doesn’t have operating experience, TVF gives them a priceless opportunity to roll up their sleeves inside a startup.
Check out the Technology Venture Fellows webpage for more details about the program, including a listing of past Fellows. You can find in-depth interviews with each of the 2018 Fellows in the Darden Report Online.