New student group Duck Ventures, focused on educating students and community members about venture capital (VC), quickly found an audience last May when it held its first event. That panel, “Understanding Early-Stage Company Investment,” drew more than 60 people, including a diverse group of undergraduate and master students, as well as many Lane County-area professionals.
Now the group is focusing on the UO Innovation Summit, where Duck Ventures is sponsoring a session on diversity and inclusion in venture capital with Diane Fraiman, Voyager Capital; Nitin Rai, Elevate Capital; Edith Dorsen, Women’s Venture Capital Fund; and moderator Rick Turoczy of the Portland Incubator Experiment.
Lundquist College sophomore and Duck Ventures cofounder Adam Faris said his interest in venture capitalism and angel investing was piqued during his senior year at Lakeridge High School when Stanford’s student-run Cardinal Ventures team visited his entrepreneurship class. He asked to meet with founders Olivia Moore and Justine Moore and inquired about its structure, hoping to bring the model to the University of Oregon.
“I saw tons of great clubs, lots of opportunities, but didn’t see any for private equity,” Faris said.
He knew he would have to adjust the Stanford model for the University of Oregon and Eugene community. During winter term his freshmen year, Faris met with Kate Harmon, instructor and undergraduate program manager for the college’s Lundquist Center for Entrepreneurship. This led to meetings with associate professor of finance Steve McKeon and mentorship from John Hull, then the college’s assistant dean for Portland programs and center development, and Joe Maruschak, chief startup officer for RAIN Eugene.
Through his discussions, Faris realized many new entrepreneurs first encounter venture capitalism when the stakes are high—during competitions or while attempting to launch their venture.
“I thought, ‘what if we were a vehicle for students to get involved and understand VC?’” Faris said.
Faris met cofounder Hunter Sudek while working on the Lundquist Center for Entrepreneurship’s Innovation and Entrepreneurship Club’s executive team. Sudek, now a senior at the Lundquist College, had been exposed to the VC world through his father Richard Sudek, an Orange County, California-area angel investor and executive director of University of California-Irvine’s Institute for Innovation.
Faris and Sudek then added social media manager Patrick Gaines and director of operations Sean Olsen—a Lane Community College student with plans to transfer to UO.
Harmon and instructor and Lundquist Center for Entrepreneurship program manager Nathan Lillegard are advisors.
Currently, Duck Ventures is a branch of the University of Oregon’s Innovation and Entrepreneurship Club. Harmon helped connect the team to Eric Boothe, JD ’17 of Elevate Capital, who Faris said has since been integral to the process. Duck Ventures now counts Elevate as a partner.
It was then that Duck Ventures leadership decided its students could be best used during the due diligence process. Elevate makes the connections and sends Duck Ventures a pitch deck (and sometimes a non-disclosure agreement), and the students conduct a marketing competitor analysis and make a recommendation to Elevate as to whether or not they think it will be a solid investment.
As Duck Ventures builds its due diligence experience, it’s also building connections with two emerging Portland firms, one in the burgeoning medical innovation field.
Duck Ventures is also looking into launching a UO fund with second-year University of Oregon Executive MBA student Alex Kummer, co-investing with Oregon-based firms in Series A or B rounds of funding.
Faris said many students have indicated interest in the group. Due to the complexity of the subject matter, he hopes to create novice and advanced subgroups so that students with more experience can mentor students new to the concept of venture capital.
He also sees the group appealing beyond business students. Computer science students, in particular, may find themselves at a development startup upon graduation and need to understand how equity dispensation works.
“We may spin off into our own club a year or two down the road,” Faris said. “Right now, we are focusing on the nitty gritty. We really want this to continue past our time here.”