The serendipity of the Student Venture Fund

Monday, April 4, 2022
by Yigga Z, MAcc student

What the fund represents to me and its spread of rewards

We all know that it’s impossible to foresee everything. In some courses here at the University of Waterloo, you’ll learn about something called risk—the effect of uncertainty on desired outcomes. Admittedly, the Student Venture Fund (SVF) is one of those courses where you really should care about the negatives of risk. However, the Fund itself very much represented the opposite for me.

yigga casual
For me, SVF was serendipity—at least, based on Google’s dictionary definition of “the occurrence… of events by chance in a happy or beneficial way.” Looking back at my SVF interview, I now know that I only had a vague idea of what I was applying for at the time. My first year on the Fund was a flurry of activity, interviewing C-suite executives, assisting angel investors, and recommending multi-thousand-dollar investments. I also made friends and mentors, bonding over real-world due diligence struggles in everything from market research to company valuation. We often discount the impact that other people have on our experiences, so I want to make clear that I thoroughly enjoyed being part of a fun, resourceful, and supportive Fund.

Then a year and a bit in, I certainly didn’t expect to be debating with seasoned venture capitalists. I had just finished my final term in the Fund as Director of Education. In this role, I worked with SVF’s faculty advisors to optimize learning and development for our 30 Fund members. With my fellow Directors, I also co-managed SVF’s reporting and recommendations to our Advisory Board and Investment Committee, respectively. My combination of leadership and teamwork experiences on SVF equipped me with the skills and confidence I needed to intern with Manulife Investment Management’s Venture Capital (MIM VC) team. Working in a streamlined team with only an Associate Director and a Managing Director, everyone’s input mattered when it came to investment decisions. I had suddenly upgraded to looking at billion-dollar deals and multi-million-dollar investments—but the crazy thing was, I was ready for it. And so, as I actively participated in MIM VC’s decision-making process, I found myself debating with industry professionals, one of the many career milestones during my senior year. In a short four months, I progressed from performing due diligence on select investment criteria to preparing initial drafts for entire investment memos. I still remember the sense of accomplishment I felt when we presented the polished version of my memo to Manulife’s Global Head of Portfolio Management—and I don’t want to ever forget the happiness we shared celebrating as a team after receiving his approval.

Now, there were a few more serendipitous-seeming outcomes over the course of my SVF experience. For example, I didn’t join SVF thinking I would co-lead a team to represent Canada at the International Venture Capital Investment Competition. I also never considered that some of my connections from SVF would become big supporters of my career journey, featuring individuals who helped me decide on and break into management consulting at an MBB firm – one of the top three firms in the management consulting industry. But, as exciting as the word serendipity sounds, it’s far better if you don’t need it. After all, investors consider risk-return trade-offs – and the combination of the two represents an opportunity. SVF is a veritable opportunity for students who are, at their core, intellectually curious and ready to learn through experience. Venture capital is an exclusive industry, even for seasoned finance professionals and top MBA graduates. With SVF, you have the unique opportunity to dive right into experiencing the world of start-ups and venture investing, supported by the Fund’s unique application-based teaching, and growing Canadian VC reputation. To sum it all up, even if you don’t know where you’ll go with the Fund, I’d argue that SVF’s spread of rewards far outweighs any risks.

For more content about the SVF and with Yigga, check out the story below: