What do entrepreneurs and investors share in common? An incentive for a return of course. But for the Rebel Venture Fund (RVF) and our partners, we’re in it for more than just an ROI. In this article, I sat down with two great minds: RVF management board member George Moncrief and RVF-invested startup founder Gerald Meggett Jr.
Moncrief is a serial investor and entrepreneur, establishing and scaling multiple startups within the Las Vegas Valley. He now works as a tech scout and product innovation coach for AFWERX, a nonprofit organization designed to foster a culture of innovation for airmen within the United States Air Force.
Meggett is a serial entrepreneur and co-founder/CEO of CircleIn, a rewards-based educational platform designed to incentivize group studying and peer support. Circle In has received funding, investments, and overall support from high schools and universities across the nation.
How does RVF prepare students for careers in the venture capital industry?
Moncrief: Overall, the fund has tremendous benefits for career development, but behind the scenes is where students learn the nuances of the industry. Through direct engagement, RVF members truly understand the deal flow process, due diligence, and how to speak to limited and general partners. By learning these things and interacting with a variety of funds, networking opportunities are fast and broad. Members are regularly speaking to other investors and startups, going to events, building out their personal network, all of which can help in a variety of ways.
For members, the RVF definitely gets you out of your shell. In addition to going to conferences, and events, it forces you to be a little more outgoing. It pushes out of your comfort zone, which is absolutely required in the business world. It’s extremely valuable.
Meggett: Student-led VC (venture-capital) firms are expanding their market share in the seed stage investment landscape across the country. What's interesting about UNLV, is that the campus was an active supporter in the early days of having a student-led VC firm.
The students are on our side and fighting for our company. The experience they receive is immeasurable.
How do entrepreneurs benefit from working with RVF?
Meggett: With CircleIn, our focus is providing peer to peer studying and homework help in an online community. We provide students the ability to get help or to give help, by connecting classmates in a very useful experience. There is an insanely great amount of knowledge and power that can be shared among peers, and we’re trying to unlock that.
Since securing a deal with RVF last summer, we’ve been able to accelerate customer acquisition and add more partners.
Our company has also hired three team members from RVF. Once we secured an investment and established connections with UNLV, we found the opportunity and incentive to hire more team members. There are really talented people at the fund, and for the students, it’s a great opportunity to meet and work with hyper-growth companies.
What's the most important lesson for communicating with entrepreneurs?
Moncrief: It’s always people first. As Brad Feld from Techstars has said, “always look for five things: people, people, people, product, market.” He says a company is not a tangible thing. A company is made up of people. A company is nothing more than a bunch of humans. It’s an imaginary construct.
Mistakes are unavoidable. Every deal is different; just make sure that those mistakes are moralized and they’re taught to the next batch of students so that they’re not repeated. Everyone can make a mistake, but it’s how you learn from it that’s most important.
I also strongly encourage them to experience board meetings and get involved with the community. That’s where the best deals materialize. In some ways, being engaged is more valuable than any skill.
Meggett: I highly recommend students to have a curious mind, both in and out of RVF activities. I encourage students to always read, research, and learn more. When considering venture capital as a place to work, I can’t stress enough the importance of preliminary information gathering and research. For every cross-functional venture capital fund, it’s really hard to be an expert in every industry, so studying up on each potential investment is key.
How important is the RVF to Las Vegas’ rapidly growing startup community?
Moncrief: RVF’s involvement is very important. If you read Brad Feld’s book, Startup Communities, you see that university involvement in area startups is absolutely critical. At UNLV you have this space, this human capital in the form of innovative young minds, the resources, the labs. Where else can people go to get that concentration of brainpower and facilities?
Meggett: The daily active users of CircleIn are students, as we enable them to study online together. What’s really impactful for us is that we get feedback through UNLV’s diverse student target market and access to the millennial voice. The more unique the perspective, the better, and to have a diverse audience is great. Overall, we’ve seen a ton of value through our partnership with RVF.
Where would you like to see RVF in five years?
Moncrief: I hope that it will grow and blossom to rival that of other notable school funds, such as Dorm Room Fund. These VC funds are extremely well-funded – but the increased level of funding provides a ton of additional opportunities to get after a lot more deals. It helps provide more opportunities for students to go to more conferences, travel, and much more.
We’ll get there if we continue to iterate not only the processes and procedures, but to invest in more capital, deals, etc. If we keep doing what we’re doing, I’d say we’re almost there.