Venture University Celebrates Its 3 Year Anniversary!

J. Skyler Fernandes
Jul 28 · 8 min read

Venture University, The World’s Leading Investor Accelerator For Venture Capital, Private Equity, & Angel Investing, Celebrates Its Three Year Anniversary With The Graduation Of Cohort 12, Growing To 350+ Alumni Investors And Scaling To 1,000+ Alumni Investors Globally Over The Next Three Years.

Over the last three years, Venture University has established itself as the category leader for individuals looking to break into the VC/PE industry, including those applying to Analyst to Partner level roles, Emerging Fund Managers launching their own funds, and Angels and Family Offices looking to professionalize their direct investing strategies and becoming LPs in VC/PE funds. VU has been called the “YC for VC” and the “new VC/PE mafia” as a large and growing number of alumni are joining and launching VC/PE funds.

VU launched its first Investor Accelerator cohort in June 2018 in San Francisco with 17 cohort members, and now, three years later, VU has recently graduated cohort 12 with 50 cohort members and grown to 350+ alumni investors across the U.S., Europe, and Asia. In June 2021 VU opened a new larger San Francisco office to accommodate its growing team and cohort of investors, and also restarted offering its in-person VC/PE Investor Accelerator program at its San Francisco and Hong Kong offices.

VU is democratizing the venture capital and private equity industry by making it more accessible for individuals to launch their VC/PE careers from anywhere in the world and from all economic backgrounds. VU offers both an in-person program and a fully immersive virtual program, and offers a wide range of payment options, including an innovative Income Share Agreement, where individuals can pay for VU’s program as a percent of their future income after graduating, which is more flexible and affordable than using credit cards or debt with interest.

“VU’s mission is to develop the top diverse investor talent entering the VC/PE industry and to create the future leaders within the space. It has been extremely rewarding knowing that we’ve built something that is greater than ourselves and supports the success of future generations of investors and the entrepreneurs they back,” J. Skyler Fernandes, Founder & General Partner at Venture University.

As VU scales to 1,000+ alumni investors over the next three years, the number of VU alumni working at and launching other VC/PE funds will continue to grow, and the VU network will become increasingly more powerful with broader access to proprietary VC/PE job opportunities and co-investment opportunities. For example, Cohort 12 had over 90+ VC/PE job interviews during VU’s quarterly VC/PE Recruiting Day which led to an impressive number of job offers for VU alumni. There has also been a rise in VU alumni hiring recent VU graduates, and the competitiveness continues to increase for hiring VU cohort members onto investment teams because of the benefits of having higher quality talent for sourcing and due diligence as well as the ability to leverage a larger and tighter network of investors.

VU’s stats speak for themselves:

  • # of Alumni & Acceptance Rate: 350+ alumni have graduated from Venture University over the last 12 cohorts, with a ~1% acceptance rate (30K+ applicants)
  • Cohort Member Backgrounds: ~60% are individuals looking to join VC/PE funds for Analysts to Partner level roles, ~25% are Emerging Fund Managers, ~15% are Angels & Family Offices
  • Diversity Stats: ~30% Women, ~25% Black and Hispanic, multiples higher than the current demographic of the VC/PE industry, and a real needle mover contributing to the volume of diversity at VC/PE funds
  • Age Stats: Each cohort is diverse in age, experience, and expertise, with members between the ages of ~20 to 50+ years old, and is ~20–25% for every ~10 years of age

VU’s investment fund, VU Ventures Partners, has grown to:

  • LPs: 1,200+ LP investors in VU Fund I
  • AUM: Investing ~$2.5M per quarter, a $100M fund run rate (@ ~$10M per year over 10 years), investing $100K to $1M in pre-seed through growth stage companies
  • Portfolio Market Cap: ~$1.9B
  • Deal Flow: Sourcing 20,000+ companies per year (10x more deal flow than a traditional VC fund) and a ~0.1% investment selectivity (10x more selective than a traditional VC fund)
  • 6 Vertical Investment Teams: Consumer, Enterprise, Fintech, Frontier, Healthcare, and PropTech
  • VU’s Investment Team: 60+ investors (10x larger team than a traditional VC Fund)
  • Portfolio Companies: 50+ portfolio companies, investing in ~18 new companies per year
  • Portfolio Geography: 55% U.S. West Coast, 19% U.S. East Coast, 10% Asia (and growing to ~20% over the next few years), 6% LatAm, 5% Canada, and 5% Europe
  • Fund Returning Unicorns: ~45% of the portfolio companies (~25) are future unicorns on track to achieve $1B+ valuations, with a large number of them capable of each returning 100% or more of all the capital invested across Fund I
  • Follow-on Capital: 60%+ of portfolio companies have raised follow-on rounds at higher valuations
  • IRR: ~32% current IRR, a ~43% EOY IRR, positioned to be a 10x+ fund with less than a 10% success of the current portfolio

VU Venture Partners management team is led by a full-time team of investment professionals, and the three senior investment partners have a combined 45+ years of venture capital experience, have invested $1.8+ billion in 250+ companies prior to VU, including 10+ unicorns where they were some of earliest and largest investors in companies such as Beyond Meat, Facebook, Twitter, Uber, Venmo, FabFitFun, Oculus, Oscar, and Wish.

The Founding Of Venture University & The Value Proposition For The VC/PE Industry

When Venture University’s co-founder, J. Skyler Fernandes (“Sky”), entered the venture capital industry 12+ years ago, there was nothing like Venture University out there. Sky was a self-educated venture capital and private equity investor and created a number of top resources for the industry, such as The “Best” Startup Pitch Deck and The VC/PE Investment Evaluation Sheet that has been viewed and downloaded over 750,000+ times.

Sky launched VU with the aim of disrupting the future of education and the future of the VC/PE industry. He combined the new innovative concept he developed of an “Investor Accelerator” (Venture University) with an investment fund (VU Venture Partners), and in doing so created what has now become the most scaled venture capital fund in the world.

A large motivating factor for launching VU was that Sky saw a great need for higher quality candidates to hire at VC/PE funds and more diversity in terms of backgrounds, gender, race, age, geography, and different perspectives. The challenge of finding top candidates to hire is real, and the challenge of breaking into the VC/PE industry is even more difficult. Prior to VU’s existence, if a VC/PE fund wanted to hire someone onto its investment team, it would typically receive approximately 500+ applications per role via LinkedIn, where maybe ~1% of the applicants would have any prior venture capital or private equity experience, a true differentiator among candidates, and is the top criteria that employers look for outside of general personality fit when making hiring decisions.

Given the rarity of candidates with high quality and successful prior VC/PE investment experience, hiring investment groups are left with only a few other filtering options. Often the next level of filtering is a) whether the candidates have any real success in operating roles at a startup, a filter for exceptional skills as an entrepreneur, which doesn’t necessarily correlate to becoming a great investor, then b) if they have any investment banking or strategic consulting experience, a filter for foundational skills in Excel and PowerPoint, and a bit of corporate finance and strategic thinking capabilities, and lastly c) and the least useful is whether they went to a top undergrad or MBA program, a filter many use for testing general intelligence, and comes with an added benefit of being connected to an alumni network of generalists, where a small percentage are in the VC/PE industry.

With each of these descending levels of filtering the size of the applicant pool of similar looking candidates gets larger. The fewest candidates and those in greatest demand are those that have high quality and successful previous VC/PE investment experience, the next and larger candidate pool are those that have successful operating experience at startups, followed by an even larger pool of candidates that have investment banking and strategic consulting experience, and the largest pool of candidates are those that graduated from top undergrad or MBA programs. Beyond that, everyone else looks pretty weak as an applicant and rarely gets interviewed, which is why the VC/PE industry is one of the most challenging careers to break into.

Venture University was launched to solve these challenges for the VC/PE industry and to create a clear path for individuals wanting to launch their VC/PE careers. VU provides the ultimate filter for the VC/PE industry by accepting ~1% of the applicants that apply and then developing the top diverse investor talent to be hired into the industry. Over the last three years VU has materially moved the needle in terms of increasing the quality and quantity of diverse candidates entering the venture capital and private equity industry.

The Value Of The Venture University Program

The value proposition of Venture University’s Investor Accelerator is quite compelling compared to an MBA program:

  • Acceptance Rate: ~7–25% (Top 10 MBA Programs) vs. ~1–2% (VU)
  • Time to Complete Program: ~2 Years (MBA) vs. ~3–12 Months (VU)
  • Tuition: ~$150K (MBA) vs. $15K-$40K, ~75–90% Less Expensive (VU)
  • Are You Guaranteed High Quality VC/PE Investment Work Experience?: No, you need to find (and sometimes pray) you get a VC/PE job during the summer (MBA) vs. Yes, cohort members join VU’s VC/PE Investment Apprenticeship Program, where they get hands-on experience, build a track record of making investments, and receive a profit sharing agreement on the investments made (VU)

Venture University’s Investor Accelerator was created to provide candidates a robust academic curriculum, including a VC/PE Masterclass and 18 Advanced VC/PE Modules, as well as a hands-on learning experience through an intense and immersive VC/PE Investment Apprenticeship program that provides significantly greater value to candidates than an internship.

What’s the difference between an Apprenticeship vs. an Internship? A lot! VU’s VC/PE Investment Apprenticeship includes:

  • No Busy Work, Build Critical Skills: You don’t spend time updating Excel sheets or PowerPoints, but instead you focus on doing the things that matter to build critical skills such as deal sourcing, due diligence, making investment recommendations, building a track record of high quality investments with top co-investors, helping portfolio companies succeed, raising LP capital, and establishing a strong VC/PE investor network and founder network.
  • A Structured Academic Program: Cohort members learn from top performing investors by participating in The VC/PE Masterclass, Advanced VC/PE Modules, and Fireside Chats.
  • Senior Level VC/PE Investment Experience: You decide what deals are brought to the weekly Partner Meetings, you build conviction and make investment recommendations to the Investment Committee, and you participate and vote on the Investment Committee. Cohort members can join VU’s program for 3–12 months and build a track record of investing in ~3–20 portfolio companies.
  • Profit Sharing: Receive a profit sharing agreement on the investments that are made and Partner level economics on LP capital.
  • REVERSE DEMO DAY & LP Investor Calls: Present your investment thesis on the companies selected to VU’s LPs and the venture community.
  • Career Development & VU’s Quarterly VC/PE Recruiting Day: Participate in VU’s VC/PE Recruiting Day to interview for VC/PE jobs, receive career development training, update your resume, practice with mock-interviews, develop your career strategy, and create a fund thesis if you’re an emerging fund manager
  • Join VU’s Alumni Network: Attend quarterly VU alumni reunions to benefit from the long tail value of VU’s alumni network for lifetime friendships, job opportunities, and co-investment opportunities
  • Fund Infrastructure For Emerging Fund Managers: Get access to VU’s fund infrastructure platform to launch your own investment fund faster and at a lower cost, where you can grow your own network of investors and invest in your own deals

Apply To Venture University’s Programs

Individuals can apply to VU’s VC/PE Investor Accelerator (main program) or select one of VU’s Academic Programs: Apply Here

If you’re an accredited investor and interested in co-investing with VU Venture Partners, you can join VU’s Investor Syndicate: Apply Here

Venture University

The trade school for venture capital, private equity, and…