Full-time MBA Candidate 2015, Entrepreneurship and Management
Undergraduate Degree: Mechanical Engineering
I am participating in this fellowship while completing my MBA, providing a continuous real-world learning experience that complements my engineering background and my entrepreneurship concentration in the UIC Liautaud MBA program. As I have gained more experience in the program, I have gotten more involved in new venture funding projects, providing me with unprecedented access to Chicago's high tech start-up community.
This fellowship has placed you at IllinoisVENTURES. Describe your work at IllinoisVENTURES?
Our work varies from project to project. Fellows are assigned to projects for the University of Illinois Chancellor’s Innovation fund; a fund dedicated to the early stage / pre-seed ventures that emerge from technologies researched at the University of Illinois. Typically we run due diligence on those companies and create a confidential memorandum for internal use. This memo includes analysis of the technology, intellectual property, competitive analysis and market analysis. We thoroughly evaluate the company and make recommendations to the IllinoisVENTURES board whether to invest in the company or not. Once we decide to invest we also provide help to bring those companies to the next level in their commercialization process. For example we use our extended network IV has established over the years to connect the companies to the right people that will help to further grow their business.
Can you tell us more about the types of interesting companies and projects you have you have worked on at IllinoisVENTURES?
Typically we work on projects that come from UIC research labs. UIC’s core competencies are medical technologies that will be used for medical treatment. Every now and then we also get technologies from the UIC research labs. These are usually engineering / software based technologies. One of the most interesting projects we were allowed to work on was for a company that combines screens or video walls (hardware) and its’ software to create highly customized and totally integrated visualization and collaboration systems. These range from a multimedia meeting room to 320 degree video caves that enable the use of 2D and 3D visualization.
In which area have you gained the most knowledge since working for IllinoisVENTURES?
I have an undergraduate degree in mechanical engineering from the Bergische University of Wuppertal, Germany. So I was confident in my ability to understand the technology related parts of our work from the very beginning. That being said, I was able to get a much deeper understanding of the business side of technology and the whole technology commercialization process. Also, it has been very helpful for me to learn the critical factors when deciding whether an early-stage company is promising or not. I definitely benefit from the knowledge of my colleague, Danielle Seger, and her venture capital background. We work together as a team very well and continuously teach each other.
What do you think makes IllinoisVENTURES successful? (Entrepreneur Magazine names it on the national list of Top 100 Venture Capital firms)
IllinoisVENTURES positioned themselves in a very unique spot between the university and private industry, which gives them insights on early stage technologies other venture funds don’t have. This allows IV to do their job better and make smarter investment decisions. IllinoisVENTURES also has the advantage to use technology to cover more ground. It sources medical opportunities from its Chicago campus and technology opportunities from the Champaign campus. Beside the Chancellor’s Innovation Fund, IV has raised two private funds in the range of approx. $20 million each. This shows that people are willing to give money because they believe IllinoisVENTURES is able to invest the money and receive a good return on its investments. In private equity that’s what success is.
How do you think this fellowship has impacted and assisted you in your future career goals?
When I applied for the MBA, I had a vision – to learn the skills needed to function as a link between engineers and business managers. It becomes very obvious that both parties speak their own language and have their own core competencies. When both come together and understand each other, they become a very strong team that can be very successful. The work at IllinoisVENTURES gives me the opportunity to develop these skills. When we work on projects, we look at it from both sides - the engineering and the business side. We then try to translate both sides into a language everyone can understand, which then enables us to make sound decisions. This fellowship has also given me the opportunity to gain knowledge about how to assess new technologies and how to assist them on their way to commercialization. In the future, as I assume a management role in my family business, I will feel confident from the experience and skills gained at IllinoisVENTURES to make decisions about what emerging technology to focus on and which to discontinue.
Are you interested in the venture funding process and science & technology ventures? Are you preparing for an MBA in Entrepreneurship and/or venture funding? If yes, you could be a candidate for the two-year fellowship offered by UIC Liautaud Graduate School of Business and IllinoisVENTURES.
It is a great opportunity work with entrepreneurs and technical founders to build world-changing businesses with the potential to create new market opportunities or significantly expand existing ones. A tuition remission and monthly stipend in exchange for working 20 hours per week with UIC’s Office of Technology Management or IllinoisVENTURES is part of the program.
Learn more about this exciting MBA funding opportunity at this weekend's UIC Liautaud Information Session on Saturday, February 8th!
Can't make it to the session? Send us an email; and we'll get you connected to our Admissions Team at firstname.lastname@example.org.