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Most VC-Backable Startup Global Search

Date Published: January 23, 2020

Saint Mary’s University has an unusual solution for hot local startups looking for financial backing. Their Venture Grade: Student Venture Capital Fund will select six startups attend a competition in early March. The startups will deliver an in-person pitch, survive a gauntlet of due diligence sessions (one with each student VC team), have lunch with the VC judges, and possibly negotiate term sheets.

There is a catch: the startups don’t actually get funding, and they aren’t the ones competing. The competition is for student venture capitalists—students who compete in teams based on how they can value a new business, evaluate its risk and potential and how they negotiate an investment deal. It’s like Dragon’s Den, but where the Dragons are the ones being tested.

But this year, VCIC is sweetening the pot for the startups, offering those participating a competition within the competition: the “Most VC-Backable Startup Global Search." Unlike tradition startup pitch competitions where dozens of startups have only a few minutes of exposure, VCIC events are due diligence immersions, day-long events for the few startups selected to participate. Startups have the opportunity to get in front of the venture capital professionals who are judging the competition in a meaningful exposure. This year, if chosen, startup businesses can move up through the regional, national and international finals just like the student competitors, meeting new venture capital leaders at every iteration.

For over 20 years, entrepreneurial MBA and college students have competed in the Venture Capital Investment Competition (VCIC), a “bracket” of 20 regional competitions in seven countries, coordinated globally by the University of North Carolina Kenan-Flagler Business School.

VCIC is a marketplace for entrepreneurs seeking investors and a training ground for students – future founders and venture capitalists. Startups pitch to students, who play the investors, and venture capitalists (VCs) judge the student teams’ investment decisions.

“SMU and Venture Grade -- Canada’s most comprehensive VC Program -- are proud to be a part of VCIC Global, hosting the Canadian Regional Finals on Friday, March 6, 2020,” commented Dr. Ellen Farrell, founder and lead for Saint Mary’s Venture Capital program.  

Kory Henn, a Saint Mary’s student and Venture Grade’s General Partner noted, “VCIC is a great opportunity to bring the entrepreneur community to campus for a day, and to recognize several of the top startups as part of this world-class event. Last year we had 17 VCs as judges.”

Winners of regional events will be included on VCIC's “Most VC-Backable Startups” list and will be eligible to be invited to the VCIC Global Finals in Chapel Hill, North Carolina, March 27-28, 2020, where the top 20 student teams, 12 most VC-backable startups and 30 VCs from around the U.S. will come together.

"Historically, founders come because we have enough VCs in the room to justify the day at VCIC," says Patrick Vernon, VCIC director and clinical associate professor of strategy and entrepreneurship at UNC Kenan-Flagler. "When they leave, they are surprised by the value of the feedback from students and investors alike, and the expanded network base for future fundraising. Over the years, over 25% of the participating startups go on to raise venture capital after the event."

In 2019, VCIC’s Most VC-Backable Startup was Admiral, the visitor relationship management company. “The competition is daunting, with student venture capital teams ripping apart your business model and leaving no due diligence stone unturned,” says Dan Rua, Admiral founder and CEO. “Securing multiple term sheets after such a thorough process was rewarding.”

Startups can apply at .  Investors can get involved at

For more information:  Ellen Farrell 902 802 4207                             

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