Why I Teach Venture Capital
Preparing the Next Generation of Professional VCs
I’m now in my 20th year teaching venture capital, but it started by accident.
It was early 1993 and I had been in my first job in venture capital for less than a year. The phone rang and it was my best friend, who was studying law at Syracuse University. He was excited about a new program called “Law, Technology & Management,” which mixed a mini-MBA into the curriculum.
“We have a lecture on venture capital scheduled for the spring and there isn’t a speaker lined up. My professor asked if anyone in the class knows any venture capitalists, so I raised my hand and said I know you.” Uh-oh.
“Anyway, he says that if you’ll fly to Syracuse and give us a three-hour lecture on venture capital, he’ll take us both out to a steak dinner afterwards.”
I discussed it with my bosses, who thought it would be a good experience for me to get up in front of a room of students and articulate the job of a venture capitalist for three hours. At that point in my career I also had a pretty strong fear of public speaking, so I wanted to test my bravery. The class went well, the steaks were delicious, and I repeated the visit for the next two years while my buddy was still at Syracuse.
After business school and some time as an entrepreneur myself, I moved to Sacramento and returned to venture capital, co-founding an institutional venture fund called DFJ Frontier. It was there that I met Andy Hargadon in 2003 at a UC Davis entrepreneurship event. We were seated next to each other on a panel to provide feedback to a local startup developing a wireless device for monitoring patients at risk of heart attacks. We had a mutual connection to Princeton, because Andy’s dad had been the Dean of Admissions, and it was like we had been friends for a long time. Andy invited me to guest lecture in his class in the business school at Davis in November of 2003, and we went to a local café for lunch afterwards.
At lunch, Andy described an idea he had for an innovative new entrepreneurship course. Andy has a strong background in design, having worked at Apple and studied the methodology of IDEO and other similar organizations. He felt that some of the key concepts of product design…