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AU and Kogod Students Take the Role of Venture Capitalists in Global Competition

Students hear pitches from companies and form investment strategies as part of the Venture Capital Investment Competition (VCIC).


Kogod School of Business professor and Veloric Center director Tommy White speaks to VCIC participants.


Imagine you had $1 million from a $100 million venture fund to invest in one business—and three companies to evaluate. What questions would you ask? What would shape your decision?  How would you value that investment?

It’s a scenario dozens of AU and Kogod School of Business students, along with thousands more from around the world, faced in recent weeks through a national competition that puts students to the test as venture capitalists for a day.

Last month, two teams of AU students traveled to Florida and Texas to face off with more than 100 other university and graduate school teams as part of the regional finals in the Venture Capital Investment Competition (VCIC).

Launched in 1998 at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, the event is the world’s largest venture capital competition that puts students in the shoes of venture capitalists while providing startups with valuable immersion into the fundraising process.

“It’s an amazing program for students that is 100 percent focused on experiential learning,” said Tommy White, director of the Veloric Center for Entrepreneurship

AU Students Face Off

To select the student teams that would represent the university in the official VCIC regional events, AU students from across campus competed in an internal VCIC-style showdown on January 27 sponsored by the Veloric Center for Entrepreneurship, the university’s cross-campus catalyst that promotes the entrepreneurial mindset.

In this month of March Madness, think of it as a “play-in” tournament for the right to advance to the “Big Dance.” 

In all, 35 students participated in the on-campus competition and were divided into six groups: three graduate teams and three undergraduate.

“It’s a really engaging exercise where students role play investment analysts for a $100 million venture capital fund," Professor White said.

We bring in real companies raising investment funds, and we have judges from the angel and venture capital community scoring the student teams on their investment acumen and communication skills."

Tommy White Purple

Tommy White

Director, Veloric Center for Entrepreneurship

Mirroring the format of the official VCIC events, the student teams heard pitches from the founders of three real companies that are currently raising capital:

  • Heather Lawver of AI storytelling startup Ceemo
  • Chris Featherstone, Matthew Featherstone, Tom Gregg, Love Joyner, and Branden Wiles of Hiatus Cheesecake
  • Jim Bennison, Louise McGlathery, and Jason Sebranek of SecQR Solutions, Inc. 

After hearing those companies’ pitches, it was time for the student teams to quickly form an investment strategy before presenting it to a panel of judges. Recruited by the Veloric Center for Entrepreneurship from the venture capital and angel investor communities, the judges evaluated students’ plans in the simulated role of “senior partners.” 

Participating judges included:

  • Bill Armistead (New Dominion Angels)
  • Julie Cranston (RevFund)
  • Aurelia Flores (Virginia Venture Partners)
  • Lisa Friedlander (NEXT and Citrine Angels)
  • Seda Goff (Flintlock Capital)
  • Lisa Li (LBL Advisory, PLLC)
  • Kirk Robertson (Terra Vista Capital, New Dominion Angels)
  • Lisa Rosenthal (Mayvin Consulting Group, EAC Member, Citrine Angels)
  • Beth Van Story (Chief Outsiders, New Dominion Angels)
  • Professor Danielle Vogel (Kogod School of Business, Veloric Center assistant director)

The judges selected one undergraduate team and one graduate team winner to move to the VCIC regionals where they competed against students from other universities.

Undergraduate Winners

Team members: Jacqueline Estrada (BSBA, December 2025), Vivian Lei  (BA Economics & Int’l Studies May 2027), Matthew Little (BA Economics December 2024), Lucia Lu (BA Public Relations May 2024), and Sophia Sabbagh (BSBA December 2024).

The team advanced and competed in the 2024 VCIC Undergraduate East Finals on February 24 at the University of Florida’s Heavener School of Business where they finished in 3rd place.

Graduate winners

Team members: Charles Adams (MBA May 2024), Ahmet Aytekin (MSc Finance May 2025), Dabreon Darby (MBA May 2024), Hassan Gad (MBA May 2025), Casey Glynn (MBA May 2024), and Summer Zhou (MBA December 2024).

The graduate student winning team advanced to the MBA Central Regional Finals on February 16 at the University of Texas McCombs School of Business in Austin, Texas where they finished in 4th place.

Kogod-Hosted Regional Final

On top of hosting an internal competition for AU students, Kogod and the Veloric Center also served as the host for the Mid-Atlantic Region Undergraduate Regional Finals on February 10.

The fully-sanctioned VCIC event included students from Carnegie Mellon University, the University of Florida, Georgetown University, James Madison University, Loyola University Maryland, and the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill.

The student team from Carnegie Mellon placed first, advancing to the national final in April at the University of North Carolina in Chapel Hill, North Carolina.

Valuable Experience

For AU students who had the chance to participate, the event proved to be a valuable opportunity to simulate the role of being a venture capital investor.

“The experience was incredibly enriching and intense,” said Dabreon Darby, a member of the Kogod graduate team that advanced to the regional competition in Austin.

“It provided real-world application of what we learn in class,” Darby added.

While coursework teaches you the fundamentals, participating in VCIC allowed me to use financial, analytical, and marketing skills in the landscape of venture capital.”


Dabreon Darby

MBA Student, Kogod School of Business

Matthew Little, part of the undergraduate team that competed in Florida, echoed those sentiments.

The work you do for VCIC is as close as you can get to the actual process of investigating a deal and preparing terms,” Little said. “I think the best lesson I can share is that you should try to understand why you’re taking each step, whether it’s evaluating the company or researching comps. And prepare as much as possible before the actual competition.”

A larger focus on experiential learning

Above all else, events like VCIC—and other pitch competitions sponsored by the Kogod School of Business and the Veloric Center for Entrepreneurship—prioritize the entrepreneurial mindset, instilling confidence and risk-taking in the next generation of business leaders.

“The students start preparing in November for the competition.  They have assignments over winter break and live practice sessions in early/mid January - all for no academic credit. In all, they each put in well over 50 hours of preparation time.  Whether they win or not, students  come out of the experience and go, ‘Wow, I’ve just moved my own personal needle of where I can be,’” White said. “We view all our activities in the Veloric Center through one simple lens: ‘Can this activity truly make a difference in a student’s life? Can this help them build life-skills? Can this move the needle a little bit more? If so, we run with it. We want to create confident, risk taking leaders that are prepared to take on the business world.”