Two teams from New Brunswick universities placed highly in the Canadian division of the Venture Capital Investment Competition, or VCIC, last week. But as COVID-19 continues its spread, there will be no global finals for the winners to attend.
Students from the University of New Brunswick finished first at the graduate level, which would have qualified them to attend the international round in North Carolina had the event not been cancelled. Mount Allison University placed second in the undergraduate division.
The New Brunswick delegation was from a class taught by Raymond Fitzpatrick, the New Brunswick Innovation Foundation Director of Investments. In the three years that the Canadian competition has been running, Fitzpatrick’s class has won twice.
“I feel so bad for the students,” he said in an interview, referring to the cancellation of the global championships. “To their credit, they’re taking the win for what it is. And while they’re upset that the globals got cancelled, they’re not letting that dampen their achievement.”
VCIC Canada sees six universities field groups of students who spend a day conducting mock interviews and negotiating with real startups at the Saint Mary’s University campus.
Event organizer and SMU Professor Ellen Farrell said the companies are often attracted by the opportunity to practice pitching in a controlled environment.
“They get this really deep due diligence,” she said. “And they get to practice and hone their answers by doing it over and over again.”
A panel of judges from the venture capital industry choose the winning students based on metrics such as their interviewing skills and the quality of their due diligence.
Students also vote on which of the participating startups they would most like to actually do business with.
The University of North Carolina’s Kenan-Flagler Business School, which governs the VCIC events, told Canadian organizers it was cancelling the global finals shortly after the Canadian winners were announced.
The move comes against the backdrop of an international health crisis that is now officially a pandemic, according to the World Health Organization.
The finals were planned to include delegations from Europe, India and Southeast Asia, in addition to several North American teams. The U.S.-based Centers for Disease Control and Prevention ranks Southern Europe and some parts of Asia as key hotspots for COVID-19.
“We know this was a difficult decision for VCIC to make,” said Farrell. “But we also understand why, given that it’s the international finals, and some teams and judges are coming from locations that are in a state of emergency.”