Big Red Ventures shares portfolio updates at Annual Meeting

Big Red Ventures (BRV), Cornell University’s early-stage venture capital fund run by MBAs and other graduate students, presented its portfolio and announced a new investment during the Annual Meeting on April 18 at Cornell Tech.

Founded in 2001 by donations to Cornell, BRV is one of the oldest student-run venture funds and is an evergreen fund that recycles all proceeds for reinvestment. BRV typically invests up to $25,000 in U.S.-based, high-growth companies across all industries. BRV also serves as the gateway to Cornell technologies through the Investor Network, which provides its investment partners unique access to new innovations.

Audience at the BRV Annual Meeting

Credit: Bridget Hagen/Cornell University

Big Red Ventures fund managers and associates, Cornell students and investors gathered for the annual meeting Thursday, April 18.

BRV Fund Manager Ryan Ries, a Ph.D. and MBA student, started the meeting with an overview of the fund, which has more than $1 million in assets under management. More than 800 Cornell students have participated in BRV, successfully overseeing 11 exits and 16 portfolio companies.

Tom Schryver ’93, MBA ’02, the David J. BenDaniel Faculty Advisor for BRV, and co-advisor Thatcher Bell ’97 spoke to the unique experience afforded to BRV fund managers.

“It’s a rare opportunity that these fund managers have taken advantage of, they’ve made the most of,” Bell said. “It’s a fantastic, hands-on experience we have tried to give some exposure to – what it is to work in venture capital and what is involved in looking at investment opportunities and managing a fund.”

Next, BRV Fund Manager and MBA student Madeline Hall introduced the 2023-24 fund manager team and shared a new BRV associate training process, which allows students who complete three trainings to join the associate pool. This process replaces a traditional application and interview process and instead focuses on education and reaching more students.

BRV fund managers also presented an overview of the Investor Network, announced Esger as the winner of the BenDaniel Venture Challenge and shared that Cornell was a regional runner-up in the Venture Capital Investment Competition.

Ries then returned to the stage to announce BRV’s 2024 investment. After screening 260 companies and performing due diligence on 31, the team of fund managers and associates invested in Lo Biosciences, an at-home blood testing startup co-founded by Sasank Vemulapati, Ph.D. ’19 and Li Jiang, Ph.D. ’14.

Vemulapati and Jiang thanked the BRV team for the investment virtually.

“We’re super excited to say that with Cornell’s and Big Red Ventures’ help, we were able to close an oversubscribed seed round,” Vemulapati said. “As Cornell alums, this is a very full-circle moment for us, and we’re excited to have Cornell represented as part of the investor group.”

Following the investment showcase and a review of BRV’s portfolio, MBA student and BRV Fund Manager Kevin Grathwohl welcomed Sakib Jamal, vice president at Crossbeam Venture Partners; Roslyn Jin, Associate Partner at Antler; and Anthony Santaro, senior associate at Armory Square Ventures, to the stage for a panel on breaking into venture capital.

“If you are investing in solutions to change the world, you have to have views about the world and be obsessed with finding those solutions,” Jin said. “If you want to succeed in VC, you want to do three things really well – source, pick and win. Source great founders, be diligent and get smart, then win allocation and win performance.”

Keynote speaker Micah Rosenbloom, managing partner at Founder Collective, closed out the presentation portion of the evening with the engaging story of his journey from startup founder to venture capitalist.

“Our mission is to be the most aligned fund for founders at the early stage,” Rosenbloom said. “You have to really live your mission statement. Everything you do has to go back to that mission statement. We have enormous empathy for founders because we’ve been there.”

To conclude his keynote, Rosenbloom offered advice to aspiring venture capitalists, including:

  • The future belongs to the weird and wonderful, but the boring and profitable have their place.

  • Ambitious products and technology that challenge the status quo are more valuable than revenue.

  • By the time a theme, such as the sharing economy or artificial intelligence, is named, it’s probably too late to fund the best startups operating within that theme.

  • You can only lose one times your money. Instead of asking what could go wrong, ask what could go right.

After the formal event, fund managers and associates connected with the audience, including students, venture capitalists and future BRV participants, during a networking session. This allowed the team to share more about the program, the screening process and investment decisions with attendees.

/Public Release. View in full here.