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Trojan Network Inaugurates USC Private Investing Event

Trojan Network Inaugurates USC Private Investing Event

Top finance undergrads and Trojan Investing Society members receive insiders’ view on venture and tech investing careers.

12.20.23
Trojan Network Inaugurates USC Private Investing Event

Marshall alum Stephanie Scott from Questa speaks with top finance undergrads during the inaugural USC Private Investing Event [Julia Plotts/USC Photo]

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Landing a job in venture capital is notoriously tough, and it’s usually not a straight route for an undergrad. Investment banking is the first step, and for decades, gaining employment has followed a strict cycle. Investment banks recruit for their rising senior year internship class when the students are sophomores — undergrads typically sign a full-time offer before they’ve even turned the tassel.

After about six months of employment, individuals can be recruited again toward the investing side without knowing the intricacies or opportunities available within the private investing industry. But now, there’s a growing shift for earlier recruitment from private equity and venture capital firms mining for top talent.

Like all savvy business leaders, Marshall and its Trojan Network are hoping to capitalize on the emerging trend by creating a pool of prepared and highly motivated undergraduates interested in investing.

“This past August, Marshall alums who started their analyst positions in investment banking were recruited into their post-investment banking investor roles during training, even before they hit the desk,” explained JULIA PLOTTS, professor of clinical finance and business economics and the academic director for the Masters of Science in Finance Program. “We felt it was more important to help educate and prepare our students when they are making such important career decisions so early.”

Hence, the formation of the inaugural USC Private Investing Event. Plotts and Marshall alum LUKE SIKORA ‘06, a general partner at J.P. Morgan Growth Equity Partners, first conceived the event in 2018.

Sikora has been guest speaking in Plotts’ FBE 421 Financial Analysis and Valuation every semester for the last 10 years. He shares with students his knowledge of venture and how it works.

“I speak with undergrad and graduate students and there’s just not a lot of courses at any university that focus on this subject…you just have to learn on the job,” Sikora said. “When you’re graduating, most students don’t know what they want to do for the next five to 10 years. [With this event,] we can start educating them earlier on, at least when they’re making that decision of getting into investing.”

In October, 23 students traveled to the Bay Area before the Weekender (USC football vs. Cal) for the inaugural USC Private Investing Event. The day-long event featured presentations and panels, giving students quality time and mentorship from USC alums working at prominent venture capital firms.

This insiders’ view exposed students to the different types of investing, provided an update on the current trends in the market, discussed career progression opportunities, and offered guidance on how to get a job in the space.

The students attending included top finance undergrads as well as seniors who are members of the TROJAN INVESTING SOCIETY, the university’s premier finance club for over 25 years. The highly-motivated attendees already have accepted offers from investment banks, consulting companies, or investment firms.

We thought it would be great to bring the students to the investors. We also wanted to rally our growing alumni venture capital investor community to meet our current students sooner so that we could start the culture of mentorship early.

— Julia Plotts

Professor of clinical finance and business economics and the academic director for the Masters of Science in Finance program

Seniors SHAAN KAPUR and RUISHA YANG, both leaders within the Trojan Investing Society, not only attended but, helped plan the event.

“We got together a year ago, envisioning a platform to bring USC’s bright minds to the forefront of private investing. Today, we are so proud to see this vision not only realized but thriving as we connect Trojans with industry leaders in a first-of-its-kind event,” said Kapur, who will be working at Morgan Stanley in their Menlo Park Tech investment banking group post-graduation.

A growing number of Marshall undergraduates have indicated their interest to specialize in finance. The Trojan Investing Society enables students to explore opportunities in finance career placement, specifically in investment banking and investing roles. Between Marshall’s curriculum and efforts to scale its programs to a growing demand, there’s a definite return on investment for Marshall and its students.

“We have a very strong reputation as the one-stop shop for investment banking recruiting,” Plotts commented.

The hope is to further strengthen USC’s overall brand in the investment community. This event adds to a suite of offerings for students.

“I personally learned a lot of industry insights and real-world cases regarding the different stages of investing from early stage to late stage,” Yang added. “All the students I’ve spoken to felt that they’ve learned more about buy-side firms in that one day than they’ve ever learned in a classroom setting.”

Throughout the day’s sessions and into the evening’s reception (hosted by the Bay Area Regional Board of the Marshall Alumni Association), students met and mingled with USC alums holding high-ranking executive positions at major employers including Canvas Ventures, Carrick Capital Partners, Genstar Capital, Kleiner Perkins, Mosaic General Partnership, Permira, Questa Capital, Sageview Capital, Salesforce Ventures, Sapphire, and Tru Arrow Partners.

That kind of access is rare for students — and a major benefit of the Trojan Network.

“One goal is education and then two, recruiting, given [the field] is so competitive,” Sikora added. “It gives us a big edge to get access to the most qualified students who would be a fit for investing, getting to know them earlier. When that six-month recruiting cycle comes up, we already know who we want to bring on as part of the cycle of recruiting.”

Plotts and Sikora aim to make this an annual event hosted in the Bay Area and expand the invite list each year as additional USC alums take on more senior positions at venture capital firms — and as more students secure jobs in the private equity space.