Democratizing Access to Education: Reflections on Five Years of VC University

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This year marks a significant milestone for our VC University program as we celebrate five years of empowering new and aspiring investors. Launched in 2019, VC University is jointly produced by Venture Forward, NVCA, and Berkeley Law Executive Education, with a mission to democratize access to venture capital (VC) education. To date, the program has empowered 3,700+ diverse participants across 15 sold-out cohorts. 

Even though strong talent is everywhere, opportunities to enter the VC industry and thrive have been limited and concentrated. When we created VC University, structured, affordable, and high-quality education on how to be a VC investor was also limited. Through VC University, we are bringing transparency to VC and making this industry—that is funding innovation and generating wealth—more accessible to all.

VC University: History & About

Adam Sterling Assistant Dean for Executive Education, Berkeley Law, notes, “When we developed VC University, we knew it was important to include the perspectives of VC leaders as instructors providing both the ‘art and science’ of how this industry works. This has led to the success and value of VC University. What initially started as a program operating two cohorts a year with 100 participants per cohort, quickly grew to three cohorts per year with 300 per cohort. We’ve been amazed to see the level of interest from people all over the country, and we’ve had the pleasure of meeting and supporting talent who are making and will continue to make a big impact in VC.” 

VC University is a premier online certificate course covering VC fundamentals, providing a structured introduction to emerging company finance. Participants benefit from lectures, discussions with leading VCs, virtual office hours, interactive lunch and learn sessions, a vibrant Slack community, and networking opportunities. The curriculum delves into the fundamentals of venture funds, startups, and deals, as well as topics including modeling venture deals and advanced VC concepts. Instructors include UC Berkeley faculty, executives from NVCA and Venture Forward, and VC industry leaders from firms including Accel, Andreessen Horowitz, Emergence Capital, Foresite Capital, Precursor Ventures, Salesforce Ventures, Sofinnova Investments, Uncork Capital, and more. VC University participants also receive complimentary, limited access to the PitchBook Platform. 

VC University Scholarship Program

As part of VC University, Venture Forward also offers a robust application-based scholarship program for new and aspiring investors from underrepresented and underestimated backgrounds, thanks to the sponsorship of several VC firms and industry service providers. To date, Venture Forward has awarded full scholarships to 500+ individuals through two tracks: the General Track, which is sector-agnostic; and the Life Science Scholarship, which launched in 2021 for aspiring life science VC investors.

Full scholarship recipients gain access to dedicated office hours and a curated three-month mentorship program, providing invaluable opportunities to build upon the technical education offered by VC University, foster industry relationships, and apply real-world applications of the course concepts.   

Venture Forward Executive Director, Maryam Haque, adds, “The VC University scholarship program has opened doors for women, people of color, and people from other underrepresented communities looking to break into VC and advance their careers in what historically has been an exclusive and opaque industry. VC University provides them with the technical education, resources, and access to a network of experienced professionals to help them navigate and thrive in the industry. The VC University community is a great source of strong, diverse talent for VC firms looking to recruit and hire. By fostering an inclusive culture for this diverse talent to grow and succeed, we can empower the next generation of more diverse VC leaders who can make a big impact on the industry.” 

As VC University marks its five-year milestone, Venture Forward is proud to co-lead this program that fuels our mission to expand access to VC, with an emphasis on accelerating the success of people who have been historically underrepresented. We celebrate our incredible, diverse VC University alumni community from all over the country who have broken into the VC industry and are on a path towards making a positive impact. With the support of our program sponsors, instructors, mentors, and speakers, together we are building a stronger, more inclusive VC ecosystem that can unlock even greater innovation and financial returns. Here’s to another five years (and more) of empowering aspiring investors and driving positive change in the VC ecosystem!  

Please join us in celebrating our amazing VC University alumni community!

Click through the deck above to learn more about some of our VC University alumni.

Many thanks to our program sponsors for their generous financial support and leadership!

Thank you to our research and data partner.
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