New student venture capital club taps industry “in our backyard”

L-R: VCC co-founder Christ Truglia, Peter Loukianoff, managing partner of Strawberry Creek Ventures, David Navarro (past VP of professional events), and Esmond Ai (current co-president).

L-R: Haas Venture Capital Club co-founder Chris Truglia with Peter Loukianoff, managing partner of Strawberry Creek Ventures, David Navarro (the club’s past VP of professional events), and club co-president Esmond Ai at the club’s holiday party last year.

Last fall, Chris Cindy Cordova, an aerospace engineer who arrived at Haas with little knowledge of the venture capital industry, attended a pitch session in Silicon Valley where VCs were grilling entrepreneurs seeking funding.

“Hearing that back-and-forth about what investors are interested in and watching how entrepreneurs presented themselves was useful to me,” says Cordova, MBA 20, who attended the session with 30 fellow members of the new Haas Venture Capital Club (HVCC) at Plug and Play, a Sunnyvale, Ca.-based accelerator.

With a goal of giving students an inside look into the world of venture capital and helping them to break into the tight-knit venture capital industry, the club has already grown to 160 members from the full- and part-time MBA programs.

Chris Cindy Cordova,

Chris Cindy Cordova, MBA 20, co-president of the Haas Venture Capital Club.

Many Haas students are interested in venture capital and entrepreneurship, and launching the club was an effort to provide more connections and resources, said Chris Truglia, EWMBA 19, who founded the club in 2018 with Scott Graham, also an Evening & Weekend MBA student.

“Even though the heart of VC is in our backyard, we haven’t fully taken advantage of it,” said Truglia, who has worked in venture capital and is currently COO of technology startup Junar. “We’re hoping that the club will raise Haas’ profile as a feeder school to the best funds.”

“A confidence booster”

So far, the club has co-hosted, with the Women in Leadership club, a conference featuring speakers who discussed challenges faced by women in venture capital and by female entrepreneurs. Other events featured a panel of Haas students who landed internships or jobs in the venture industry, and a focus session with Strawberry Creek Ventures, which co-invests with other funds in companies led by Berkeley alumni.

Faculty advisors to the club—Deepak Gupta, an industry specialist in the Haas Career Management Group, Rhonda Shrader, executive director of the Berkeley Haas Entrepreneurship Program, and William Rindfuss, executive director of strategic programs in the Haas Finance Group—are reaching out to engage Haas alumni as mentors. And the club’s VC Excursion Program aims to connect groups of HVCC members to alumni in venture capital for fun activities such as hiking, dinners, and boating.

Mingling with alumni who work in venture capital at a recent event at a local pub was a confidence-booster, said Cordova, the club’s co-president. “It helped me become more confident, knowing that there’s a group of pros out there who want this club to be successful and to see them acknowledge how it benefits the students,” she says.

Landing the VC jobs

Equally important is forming relationships with Silicon Valley accelerators and VC firms, in part through more treks to firms to shadow professionals, with the goal of helping students in the job search. Early efforts have yielded some returns: Four Haas students are already working at paid internships at Plug and Play.

The club is also developing what it calls its Talent Pipeline Program (TaPP), a program to help students of all experience levels to increase their knowledge of the VC industry through club activities and independent research, said Esmond Ai, MBA 20 and club co-president. Through the program, students will create training materials, organize workshops, and book guest speakers.

Student teams would, for example, undertake an independent project, such as researching an emerging market for a report or white paper. Then, instead of waiting for public job postings, teams could proactively approach VC firms and offer up their knowledge with an eye toward doing work for the firm.

“The idea is to place students in the right place at the right time when permanent job openings arise,” Ai said.

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