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Dec 10, 2019

My Internship with Maine Venture Fund

Eric Murphy T'20

As a career entrepreneur, I sought out a summer internship through Tuck that would allow me to have a seat on the “other side” of the startup financing negotiating table, so to speak, while simultaneously creating value for a small company through my expertise in digital marketing. The opportunity with Maine Venture Fund perfectly fit the bill.

Maine Venture Fund (MVF) is not like most other venture capital (VC) funds. As a not-for-profit that has been seeded by capital from the State of Maine, MVF has social and economic impact targets, like the quality and number of jobs created, on top of traditional financial growth objectives pursued by typical VC funds. And due to its partnership with the state and its guiding mission, MVF operates according to one primary stipulation: all investments must go to companies focused on creating job opportunities in Maine. Beyond that, the predominantly private-sector Board of the fund has quite broad discretion in how it operates and the types of securities it purchases. The result is a unique, hybrid organization: MVF is both a privately-managed VC fund and a publicly-funded economic growth engine for Maine.

Having deployed more than $20 million in capital, MVF has been serving, guiding, and investing in the startup community in Maine since 1997, and its commitment to Tuck has been just as strong--I was lucky to be the 11th consecutive summer MBA Intern for the fund. 

MVF structures its internship deliberately to suit Tuck students seeking exposure to the world of venture capital (VC), but who may not already possess experience in the industry. This is demonstrated through internship structure: MVF’s interns spend ~25% of their time on fund management projects, which lead to grounding in the nuts and bolts of venture capital, and ~75% of their time contributing to projects with portfolio companies that utilize their unique talents. This balance creates value strategically for all parties involved -- the portfolio company, Maine Venture Fund, and the MBA student.

On the fund management side of the internship, I learned a number of valuable VC basics such as how the fund acquires money to invest, what its due diligence process looks like for evaluating investment opportunities, how its investment managers go about structuring term sheets and deploying capital, how the fund tracks equity stakes and dilution in its investments through capitalization tables, and how the team actively manages its portfolio of investments through board oversight, coaching, and other means of non-financial support.

Beyond that, and most importantly, I learned first-hand how venture capital funds can be a critical piece of a startup ecosystem that contribute uniquely to both company and community-based growth. 

Meanwhile, on the portfolio company side of the coin, I was matched up with CourseStorm, a B2B software startup, to accomplish a lofty goal: determine the return on investment for its marketing channels to date and build a formal reporting structure and process for the management team to access and analyze critical marketing metrics on an ongoing basis.

This project required marketing software experience to integrate CourseStorm’s SQL and HubSpot databases, Excel skills to clean, sort, and manipulate data, analytical skills to determine and define key marketing metrics, and project management skills to coordinate efforts between the management team, development team, marketing team, and even another intern. (Side note: you know you’ve got it made in your MBA internship when you have an undergrad intern working for you!)

When the project wrapped up at the end of the summer, I felt proud and accomplished knowing that I was able to utilize my skills and experience to establish a critical data-enabled reporting system that will guide the company towards greater marketing transparency and maturity.

Thanks to MVF, CourseStorm and, of course, TuckGives, I was blessed with the opportunity to accomplish both my MBA internship goals of cutting my teeth in venture capital while deploying my marketing skills to help a startup grow.