The Venture Club explores startups

In an attempt to add to the preexisting resources present at Baruch College’s Zicklin School of Business, a new club has sprung up in Baruch, with its purpose being to focus on emerging technologies and entrepreneurship. The Venture Club had its first general interest meeting in early April, and its leadership is hoping to grow the technology and startup imprint within Baruch.

Co-President Jonathan Kerstein says that startups are “not all Peter Thiel and Mark Zuckerberg … it’s a grind.” His intent, along with Co-President and Co-Founder Alec Schonfeld, is to walk club members through the practical steps of creating a startup, among other similar topics.

The club’s programming will be determined by what members want to learn about and the co-presidents will act as facilitators of providing information, not as teachers.

Kerstein intends to bring his connections in the startup world into the club to help members. Since talks began with the Office of Student Life at the end of 2016, the leadership of the Venture Club has been working on building connections and laying the foundations of a network of professionals in the field of entrepreneurship and venture capital investing.

The executive board of the club is made up of five sophomores. As a young club with young leadership, the emphasis is on collaboration.

The club is trying to attract all students with even a passing interest in entrepreneurship, in the hopes that they will grow to develop passion for the field. Students must be committed, as the time for club hours will not necessarily be enough for all those involved. Leadership, however, believes that if something is a passion, it will not be a chore.

Leadership in the Venture Club claims that Baruch does not have a strong enough technology network in place, and the club hopes to help fill the need for its members. They plan on reaching out to the Lawrence N. Field Center for Entrepreneurship for a potential partnership, and see collaborating with the center as an important part of their goal.

In talking about clubs with similar areas of interest, Kerstein refers to them as “adjacent.” He sees similarities, and while, according to him, no club does exactly what the Venture Club plans to do, the clubs with similar interests offer the potential for future collaboration.

In terms of what is expected for the club, the leadership plans to give its members “the lay of the land” regarding startups, showing ideas in depth. One example given was the concept of “growth hacking,” in which a startup would determine how they could quickly expand their customer base. This was seen through the prism of cloud storage, where Dropbox used a “double-sided referral program,” in which referrers and those referred would each get storage boosts.

Other ideas include a startup contest and an evaluation summit, the latter giving the opportunity to learn how to value early stage, pre-revenue generating startups. Kerstein says that the club is about learning “how venture capitalists decide what startups are worth investing in, why they invest the way they do and how those investments take form, and then on the founder’s side … how to best seek different forms of venture capital … how to take a company from its infancy in the corporate lifestyle to … the larger companies you see in the public space today.”

The Venture Club, as all new clubs, must go through the process to become a club before it can be officially recognized.

It had its general interest meeting already and now must need at least ten official members and an event co-sponsored by another club before it can have a confirmed budget. In the meantime, the leaders of the club plan to build interest, plan their curriculum and utilize their network of entrepreneurs and venture capitalists.

The focus of the club is on emerging industries and applications of technologies that are radically innovative, seeing how they coincide and can be utilized in intersection with the venture capital space.

As they move forward, leadership hopes to utilize the connections of its founders in order to allow students to come and explore their entrepreneurship inclinations. Much like a startup, they are small and trying to make a name for themselves, with the hopes that their club will be a contribution to the Baruch community at large.