Alex Zorniger is an MBA candidate at The Ohio State University’s Fisher College of Business, graduating in 2021. He completed Ohio Innovation Fund’s Venture Boot Camp in winter 2019. Here’s what he thought of the experience:
What encouraged you to complete the Venture Boot Camp with OIF?
I participated in the Venture Boot Camp because I have a great deal of interest in startups, entrepreneurship, and venture capital, and I want access to those industries in the Midwest. There’s always something to learn about startup investing from professionals that have been doing it for decades, so I found this opportunity with OIF valuable to understand more about what venture capital looks like in Columbus and Ohio. The opportunity to learn how OIF approaches strategic investing also encouraged me to spend the week at the Venture Boot Camp.
What was the most valuable exercise of the Venture Boot Camp?
In-depth Q&A sessions with the OIF team and their companies’ founders were extremely valuable. While students can read articles about VC topics and look at spreadsheets for hours, it can be difficult to understand all of the information without the opportunity to talk with people who have years of experience doing it. Throughout the program, we were able to spend hours asking successful people in the industry how they approach the different topics. The learning material, combined with the opportunity to clarify and solidify our understanding of the material with people who have real experience, was beneficial. Overall, the quality time we received with founders and VCs was remarkable and very unique to this program.
Talk about growing up in an entrepreneurial family, as well as what similarities and differences you see in that experience versus VC-backed businesses.
Growing up in an entrepreneurial family gave me more comfort than some may have with the inherent risks of entrepreneurship. It can be extremely scary to put your career or finances on the line to try and build something. Seeing the process from an early age has helped me understand how to take it one day at a time as a business owner and tackle problems as they arise.
One significant difference I’ve seen between family-based entrepreneurship and venture-backed businesses is the ownership structure. With personally financed business, there’s a much clearer structure of control. In this environment, an entrepreneur will follow their gut and execute the strategies they feel are best. In contrast, founders of venture capital-backed businesses work with a variety of different investors who often times have competing interests. Managing these different desires and egos, while keeping the company on the right track, adds a significant layer of complexity to an already difficult job. The Venture Boot Camp helped me understand this dynamic much better than I did before.
Who would you recommend to complete the Venture Boot Camp? Any advice going in?
I think anyone who is interested in business, but may not be excited about joining a corporation, would find value in the Venture Boot Camp. Not only does it introduce students to venture capital, but it also helps them understand more about startups. One of the best ways to break into venture capital is to find success in the startup world. By participating in this boot camp, students can more effectively identify high-potential startups to pursue. Without understanding how VCs look at businesses, it can be easy to join a poorly positioned startup and find failure early in an entrepreneurial career.
Do you see venture/entrepreneurship fitting into your future career? If so, how? Did the Venture Boot Camp change your perspective on this?
I absolutely see venture and entrepreneurship fitting into my future career. I love building things, and these industries are where some of the most exciting building and innovation starts. In the future, I would love to be a part of the growing community of successful Ohio startups that are changing our world for the better.
The Venture Boot Camp really helped me understand exactly how venture and startup culture is evolving and growing in Ohio and the Midwest. Understanding the unique components of the industry in the Midwest will help me find the right opportunity in the community as my career evolves.