By Natalie Cira T’17
I went into the summer wanting to learn as much as I could about the venture capital space and the startup world, and my experience at the Maine Venture Fund (MVF), with the support of funding from Tuck GIVES, has provided me with that opportunity and much more. The Maine Venture Fund is a professionally managed venture capital fund that invests exclusively in Maine companies that demonstrate a potential for high growth and public benefit. The Fund is run by a small team of managing directors, and I’ve had the opportunity to build close relationships with all of them, as well as connect with their experienced board members (one of whom is a Tuckie!). In addition to my day-to-day responsibilities of working with two of the fund’s portfolio companies, I’ve also participated in board meetings, conducted due diligence on possible investments, and attended a number of startup and venture capital events in Portland, Maine.
As for my responsibilities as a summer intern, I spend the vast majority of my time working with one of MVF’s portfolio companies called R.e.d.d.; an early stage energy bar company that recently secured $1M in funding to accelerate product innovation and distribution. I’m working on three projects for R.e.d.d.: establishing and implementing a brand ambassador program, creating a cause marketing initiative, and conducting strategic multi-category analysis and field research to help identify which categories outside of the energy bar space are most consistent with the R.e.d.d. brand and provide the best opportunity for product expansion. R.e.d.d. currently has three full-time employees (the CEO is a Dartmouth alum), so the experience has been incredibly valuable in terms of being able to observe and tangibly contribute to the growth of an early stage start-up. Not to mention they have an actual zipline in the office which I was required to do before being considered an official member of the team.…so despite working around the clock in your typical start-up fashion, they still find time for fun! Shameless plug: R.e.d.d. bars are now sold at Tuck and Dartmouth, so be sure to give them a try – they are delicious!
In addition to my responsibilities at R.e.d.d., the remainder of my time is split between conducting research on the competitor landscape for one of MVF’s edtech portfolio companies, and working on a project related to the fund where I am researching what criteria MVF should evaluate when assessing whether or not it is time to engineer an exit from an investment and what tools are most appropriate for executing those exits (stock buyback, auction, etc.).
What has made this experience so rewarding, both personally and professionally, is not only the skills and experience I’ve gained through my internship projects, but also the meaningful relationships I’ve built with the MVF team and the local VC community. I came to Tuck to switch careers and my time at MVF has provided me with strategic and tactical experiences to help me achieve my long-term career goal of working in the mission-driven venture capital space. It has been a truly invaluable experience!
(Main photo above: The entire R.e.d.d. team during a shoot for their marketing campaign. Photo at right: Natalie working with the R.e.d.d founder Alden Blease and CMO Reed Allen. Photo at left: Natalie with R.e.d.d. founder Alden Blease and R.e.d.d. CEO Peter Van Alstine whom she worked closely with during her internship.)