Darden students Adriana Gadala-Maria (Class of 2022) and Rachel Edwards (Class of 2022) put their venture experience to work through participation in CAVenture, a program offered by CAV Angels, a nonprofit club comprising UVA alumni, faculty, parents, students and friends of the university. UVA Today describes CAVenture as “a cross-Grounds, apprentice-style program that is open to any CAV Angels student members – who take part in it on their own time. Companies looking for funding agree to undergo a due-diligence process conducted principally by the students, who are guided by the CAV Angels board, executive committee or other volunteer members.”

Full story originally published on UVA Today.

“I think one of the special parts of this experience for the students is that they are given leadership over an area of the project that interests them personally,” CAVenture board member and Director of Darden’s Richard A. Mayo Center for Asset Management Aaron Fernstrom said. “So many of the students that find CAVenture have boundless intellectual curiosity, which in many ways is what makes a great investor and entrepreneur – and student. We want to feed that as much as we can.”

Students on the CAVenture teams range from undergraduates living on Grounds to graduate students in Darden’s Executive MBA program living in Washington, D.C.

Left to right, Adriana Gadala-Maria and Rachel Edwards have gained experience in the due-diligence process through CAVenture. (Contributed photos)

Rachel Edwards (Class of 2022) shared insights on her path to this unique program. Edwards also serves as VP of Finance for the Retail and Luxury Goods Club at Darden.

Knowing when and how to ask the right questions is one of the biggest skills that Darden student Rachel Edwards says she has learned through CAVenture. (Contributed photo)

“Prior to Darden, I worked for 10+ years in fashion and retail. I spent the last 4 years working with startups in addition to founding my own image consulting business in 2018. I first heard about CAV Angels through some other students during the Fall of my first year. After joining CAV in January of 2021 I ran point on due diligence that subsequently led to CAV’s investment in Darden grad Meg Pryde’s company, Brandefy. CAV Angels provided great hands on experience. It was truly a ‘learn as you go’ approach which I found incredibly valuable. Through this process I came to understand and embrace the ambiguity associated with startups. With early stage companies there often aren’t financial statements to analyze so a lot is left up to your belief in the founder, their team and the company vision. As a founder, it was valuable to understand the perspective of investors at this early stage. I met and worked alongside some amazing people through CAV, a few have become great friends and mentors during my time at Darden. I’m still working on plans post-Darden, but at this point in time I see myself taking one of two paths – continue growing my own business while working on my new startup or shifting to VC at an early stage consumer fund. My experience with CAV was instrumental in helping me understand how funding works in the early stage startup ecosystem. It provided me with insights I have been able to apply to my own businesses and also opened my eyes to a future career path in early stage VC.”

Adriana Gadala-Maria (Class of 2022) is also an integral part of the CAVenture program. She currently serves as president of Darden’s Entrepreneurship & Venture Capital Club, where she also puts her passion for startups to work.

“In fall 2020, a group of UVA students and I performed due diligence on DataClassroom, a prospective investment deal for CAV Angels at the time. For those that are new to due diligence in venture capital, it is research on a prospective company for investment. This includes analyzing a company’s team, product, business model, addressable market, go-to-market strategy and customer segments.

Adriana Gadala-Maria hopes to work in venture capitalism after she graduates. (Contributed photo)

To best understand DataClassroom, our team had multiple conversations with the startup founders and team, researched the addressable market, interviewed prospective customers, and spoke with experts in the industry. This process took several weeks, and after finishing this work we presented our research and recommendation to the CAV executive committee, who ultimately decided to make an investment in the startup.”

Gadala-Maria shared her post-Darden plans, “After graduation, the goal is to continue working in venture capital. Since my time at CAVenture, I’ve had the opportunity to work at other venture capital firms like Dorm Room Fund, Anorak Ventures, Glynn Capital and Bessemer Venture Partners, and I hope to continue this work post-Darden.”