Venture Capital 101

Tech is down, but interest in VC fellowships remains undiminished

If it's not the most opportune moment to enter the venture-capital business, maybe it's the right time to enter venture-capital school. The Kauffman Fellows Program, which provides 12 would-be VCs with education, mentoring, and an annual stipend of $110,000 plus benefits, expects more than the usual 200-250 applicants for its next class, says Trish Costello, director of venture capital and women's initiatives at the Kauffman Center for Entrepreneurial Leadership.

Already, she said, nearly 300 people have started the application process for the 18-month program, which starts next summer. Applications, which are due by Oct. 15, are accepted from people with a minimum of three years business experience. An MBA and a technology degree or related experience are also desirable. Warns Costello: "They go through a very rigorous selection process by VCs and professors."

The fellows -- 25% of whom will be women -- are paired with VC firms for intense mentoring and a hands-on education in the world of venture capital. Only VCs who have been through an economic downturn are cast in the mentor role.

Would-be VCs must worker harder these days to find mentors. Firms that formerly went on the recruiting circuit at MBA schools have stopped those visits, according to Costello. "Everyone is so busy in their portfolio companies right now, trying to add value, that they don't have time for other parts of the business."

Those eager to get a bird's-eye view of startup survival tactics will find more information on the program at

By Theresa Forsman in New York