When Vator launched in 2007, our thesis was that there would be more entrepreneurs and more investors looking at the private market as a viable asset class to invest in. Fueling this rise in entrepreneurship is this entrepreneurial spirit and mindset sweeping through colleges, fertile ground to find some of the best ideas and tomorrow's leaders. I was one of the first people to interview Marck Zuckerberg, while he was still at Harvard. And, of course other famed drop-outs including Steve Jobs, Bill Gates and Michael Dell.
Now, Foundation Capital is scoping colleges to find the next drop-out. Through a program called Young Entrepreneurs Program (YEP), started by partner Paul Holland, the Silicon Valley VC is working with 10 hand-picked graduate students from top-tier schools, such as MIT, Wharton, Stanford, Columbia, Harvera and Berkeley, to name a few.
I recently sat down with Holland for a three-part interview.
Here are a few highlights from Holland's answers (slightly edited). You'll have to watch the interview for more.
- The students work as scouts to find the best ideas within the university and the surrounding area. The schools are not involved, rather YEP is a program that any student from these universities can apply to. Just go to the Foundation Capital Young Entrepreneurs Program website.
- To be a YEP student, Holland looks for those who are aspiring entrepreneurs, and he also likes those with a technical background, though you don't have to have one. The job is to identify the best start-ups in the area.
- While business plan competitions are effective in finding the top ideas from the colleges, the YEP program tries to canvas ideas outside the university as well. The hope behind YEP is that the YEP student who brings the deals to Foundation will consider the winners of the competitions among other ideas that might not have entered the competition. Additionally, YEP enables the Foundation partners to spend more time with the entrepreneurs.
- Having worked with colleges in the last year, it's become apparent that there's a larger and larger percentage of college students going after entrepreneurial opportuniites.
- Last year, YEP came up with 500 start-ups, of which six were considered for in-depth due diligence. No start-ups were funded.