When Mike Ravenscroft assumed the role of managing director at the Maryland Momentum Fund (MMF), he quickly recognized a significant gap in the program: a lack of student programming. So he embarked on a mission of ”customer discovery.”
Ravenscroft took stock of the needs and opportunities within the University System of Maryland (USM) network and the broader region.
“Students expressed a strong desire for exposure to the VC industry, a thirst for knowledge and a keen interest in gaining practical experience with venture capital. Faculty members echoed these sentiments from their students,” he told Technical.ly. “Additionally, when I engaged with venture funds in the region, a consistent challenge they pointed to was the shortage of talent. However, I don’t view it as a lack of talent; in fact, I believe we have an abundance of talent. The challenge lies in the industry’s size and exclusivity, making it difficult for aspiring individuals to enter and gain valuable experience.”
That’s how the inaugural University System of Maryland Venture Fellowship came to be. With applications opening on Oct. 10, the fellowship aims to offer students registered at a USM member institution a chance to acquire experience in the field of VC. There is no course credit available for the program but student applications are open through the MMF site from Oct. 10 to Nov. 30.
The USM Venture Fellowship offers students the opportunity for an internship with a venture capital fund, education in venture capital, certification through VC University and National Venture Capital Association (NVCA), upskilling and career readiness training, practical non-credit learning, participation in a cohort model, and the chance to expand their networks. Ravenscroft said that the program aims to select five to seven students for this first year.
Applications are accepted on a rolling basis, but students within the USM network are encouraged to apply early, as interviews with funds commence in October.
In December, the cohort will be finalized by 14 different angel groups and venture funds all based in the DMV. The partner groups will only interview and are not promised to hire candidates. Most internship positions offered by the partner funds are paid positions.
Ravenscroft attributes his own experience as a student within the USM network as a pivotal influence on the new USM Venture Fellowship’s development. He received a master’s in business administration from the University of Maryland, College Park during the COVID pandemic.
”When I was doing my MBA, one of the reasons I came to Maryland was they had a pretty unique opportunity to support the angel fund as one of the jobs you could do as a graduate assistant,” he said. “And they knew that I wanted to be in venture and I knew that I wanted to get exposure to your ecosystem.”
Despite his affiliation with a prominent institution (The Robert H. Smith School of Business at the University of Maryland) and a hefty network, Ravenscroft said he faced persistent challenges in breaking into the venture capital (VC) realm.
“It’s very hard to get opportunities in VC,” he said. “It’s a really small industry. There aren’t that many job openings. It’s hard to get an internship. And most VCs tend to hire from 10 or 12 Ivy League schools primarily.”
Ravenscroft said he’s looking forward to “being able to paint the picture of all of the really cool and innovative stuff that’s happening in Maryland. You know, I think one of the things that we are constantly thinking about as a university system but then as a venture ecosystem more broadly, is how is what we’re doing impacting the greater good. … What I hope students get out of the program is an appreciation for everything that is going on in Maryland, from all different aspects of the ecosystem.”
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