Venture Capital University Comes to New Orleans


NEW ORLEANS — Later this month, the A.B. Freeman School of Business at Tulane University will team up with the National Venture Capital Association (NVCA) and UC Berkeley School of Law’s Startup@BerkleyLaw initiative, for VC University LIVE in the South.

The program takes place from September 19 through September 21, at the Stewart Center CBD (725 Howard Ave.)

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According to Robert Lalka, the director of Tulane’s Albert Lepage Center for Entrepreneurship and Innovation, the objectives include shining a spotlight on the south’s startup ecosystem; convening industry leaders in the south and the coasts; offering education to newer entrants to venture capitalism; and discussing advanced issues in venture capitalism.

“We start the program with a series of Deal Labs that bring to New Orleans a more nuanced and in-depth discussion about VC negotiations, with sessions on term sheets and cap table deliberations led by top experts from across our region and around the country,” he explained in an email.

“We then get to hear from a range of world-class investors from Greenspring, Revolution, In-Q-Tel, and Andreessen Horowitz, along with the chair of the National Venture Capital Association,” Lalka continued. “We’re keeping this event fairly small in order to ensure meaningful discussions, as well as ample opportunities for networking among successful local entrepreneurs, angel investors, and several of the top VCs in the country. I’m confident that attendees will find that this opportunity will add real value to their work and, hopefully, to our entrepreneurial ecosystem more generally.”

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When NVCA hosted its first VC University LIVE in the Midwest in May, with the University of Michigan Ross School of Business, they welcomed 60 attendees and 30 speakers from across the country.The New Orleans-based program will focus on VC growth in the south.

Lalka says that 78-percent of all venture capital goes to three states: Massachusetts, California, and New York.

However, emerging venture ecosystems remain a focus for NVCA and VC University for a number of reasons. NVCA notes that since 2014, startups in the south have raised nearly $38 billion across about 7,900 investments; and have attracted approximately 8-percent of annual U.S. VC deal count and 14-percent of U.S. total capital investments.

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In Louisiana alone, startups have raised $205 million across 112 investments since 2014.

“It would be foolish to think that all of the good ideas are only in those places where the venture capital is finding those deals,” he said. “How do you thoughtfully, and in a sophisticated way, elevate the conversation in New Orleans around what it takes to be viable as a potential investment? And also, how do you go through the negotiations of term sheets, and really set your business up so that you’re ready for VC dollars?”

Those questions will be addressed during the three-day program.

“From the very moment you walk in to VC University LIVE, you’re talking with the very best venture capitalists … You’re really getting to the brass tacks of: what does it look like to have a business that’s ready to take on VC, and how do you negotiate those terms in a way that’s fair,” said Lalka. “I’m trying to encourage everyone here to not just think about what it takes to be a successful entrepreneur in New Orleans, but what it takes to be a successful entrepreneur nationwide, ready for investments that come from outside.”

Confirmed program speakers include Richard Babb of Louisiana Funds; Chris Booker of Frist Cressy Ventures; Frank Dalton of Fulcrum Equity Partners; Jan Garfinkle of Arboretum Ventures; Michael Hecht of GNO Inc.; Kate Mitchell of Scale Venture Partners; Scott Whittaker of Stone Pigman; and Ashley Yesayan of Revolution LLC, among many others.

Lalka personally looks forward to moderating a panel with Patrick Comer, the founder and CEO of Lucid, and Chris Meaux, the founder of WAITR. Comer was Tulane’s Distinguished Entrepreneur of the Year in 2018, and he’s currently the chairman of the Idea Village’s Board of Directors.

“He’s someone who I really respect and have loved getting to know, and he’s been very generous to us,” said Lalka. “And so having Patrick there is really exciting.”

Lalka is also hoping to debut theGNO Startup Report – a survey sent to local business incubators who can discuss the status of the local startup scene.

“When I started this job (nearly two years ago), I felt that there was a whole lot of sizzle around entrepreneurship in New Orleans,” said Lalka. “But if you look at the stats, you can see that we’ve got a lot more work to do.”

Tuition for the VC University LIVE in the South is $1,500. Discounts are available for Tulane alumni, Berkeley alumni and NVCA members. Group discounts are also available. Attendees can register the day of the program, but qualified candidates are accepted on a rolling basis and space is limited, so guests are encouraged to apply as soon as possible.


Suzanne Pfefferle Tafur is the associate news editor of

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