Courses & Electives

Tuck offers several elective courses in private equity and venture capital. In the 2023-24 academic year, the following elective courses explored the themes of private equity and venture capital and featured many notable guest speakers:

Early Stage Venture Capital Workshop Practicum

Professor Jim Feuille
The goal of the Early Stage Venture Capital Workshop Practicum is to engage students in an in-depth, hands-on, team-oriented exploration of real-world early stage venture capital (VC) deal making, first by giving students an intensive grounding in the core elements of early stage venture capital—venture capital fund portfolio construction, deal sourcing, deal screening and selection, due diligence, valuation of early stage companies, convertible notes, capitalization tables, term sheets, the elements of an investment memorandum and negotiations with entrepreneurs—then by engaging students in a series of “deal workshops” whereby students will work on analyzing and conducting “due diligence” on nine “live” venture capital deals, three at a time, meeting with the founders or CEOs of companies that are then active in the marketplace raising Seed, Series A and Series B rounds of venture capital to hear their pitches and ask due diligence questions, and selecting three of those deals (one per set of three) to recommend to their “partnership”, consisting of practicing venture capitalists from around the US, by writing a full investment memorandum for each of the three deals and presenting and defending the investment thesis for the deal in a meeting with the venture capital partners.  Unlike interns or associates in venture capital firms, who support the partners in their work, in this workshop, students will take on the role of the partners in a venture capital firm who are leading deals for their firms.  In the final week, the deals phase of the workshop concludes with mock negotiation sessions where the teams will negotiate an investment term sheet with three of the nine entrepreneurs, one per team.

Entrepreneurial Finance (ENTFN)

Professor Morten Sorensen
This course is designed to help prospective entrepreneurs and investors understand the corporate finance issues and financing decisions that arise in an entrepreneurial context. We first cover the three fundamental topics in entrepreneurial finance: (1) start-up valuation, (2) deal terms, and (3) staged investing. We then apply those tools to address questions about how to determine an appropriate valuation of a start-up, how much capital to raise and from whom, the mechanics of term sheets and cap tables, economics of milestones, subsequent financing rounds and exits. The course is taught though a combination of lectures, case studies, and guest speakers.

Field Studies in Venture Capital (FSVC)

Professor Philip J. Ferneau D'84, T'96
This course is designed to provide a practitioner’s perspective on the challenges and opportunities of venture investing in private, entrepreneurial companies (or entrepreneurs seeking such investment). While there is no substitute for hands-on investing experience, the course is designed to introduce you to venture capital best-practice frameworks and the challenges of applying them using real world examples. The first portion of the course will focus on evaluating and structuring early-stage investments, using a combination of case discussion, classroom exercises, and “live” deals. The remainder of the course will feature guest speakers, case discussions and readings that expose students to venture capital practitioners and the practical challenges they encounter, including post-investment. Throughout the term, the course will emphasize active discussion and experiential learning. Note that the readings and situations discussed in class will focus on venture capital investing, but many of the concepts covered are also generally relevant to private equity investing in private companies.

NLP, Machine Learning, and AI in Finance (RTPNL)

Professor Gordon Phillips
We will study finance applications of new big data textual methods including Natural Language Processing (NLP)/ Machine Learning (ML), and Textual Artificial Intelligence (AI). We will examine how this broad area has applications in finance with tools that include simple text processing to more advanced tools such as machine learning and predictive AI. Areas that we will study that are using NLP include merger prediction and performance, profitability prediction, stock return prediction, evaluation of venture capital business plans, innovation and patenting, banking and other finance topics. Our study materials will be academic articles in finance and economics, not computer science. Students will be responsible for reading and presenting the materials in these articles as well as doing a final research project that would involve analysis of textual data using some of the methods covered in this course. There will be active learning in this course as students will help lead the discussion of various topic areas and we will have some Python exercises that have been developed with accompanying videos. Knowledge of Python is not required as we will guide students through some basic exercises in textual analysis applied to financial documents including 10Ks, earnings calls, and patent text.

Real Estate (RE)

Professor Brian Melzer
This course provides an overview of the real estate industry and the basic analytic techniques used for investing in this $20 trillion asset class. Students will take a hands-on approach, building a practical knowledge of real estate through case studies, and class discussions. The study of multi-faceted real estate projects allows students to: 1) enhance their understanding of valuation, financing and portfolio management; and 2) analyze a broader set of management problems, such as how to recognize and describe value creation opportunities, how to evaluate and manage risk, how to structure partnerships and business contracts, and how to use real estate optimally within an operating business. A highlight of the course is the opportunity to interact with industry leaders and learn about the latest techniques and trends in the industry.

Research to Practice Seminar: Quantitative Private Equity(RTPQP)

Professor Morten Sorensen
The seminar covers recent academic studies of private equity and venture capital investments, although the material applies broadly to other alternative assets organized in similar fund structures (e.g., growth equity, mezzanine, infrastructure, and real estate funds). The course is divided into two parts: The first part covers the relationship between private equity funds and the companies they acquire, i.e., their portfolio companies. Topics covered in this part include the impact of private equity on corporate governance and operations as well as the consequences for employees and other stakeholders in portfolio companies. The second part takes the perspective of institutional investors (LPs) that allocate capital to private equity funds. Topics include the organization and economics of the private equity partnership, performance evaluation of private equity funds, and portfolio choice considerations for LPs allocating capital across asset classes that include private equity.

Small Buyouts Private Equity Practicum (PRPEP)

Professor Nicholas Russell
Small Buyouts Private Equity Practicum (“PEP”) is intended to engage Tuck students in a hands-on learning experience to apply what they have learned in other Tuck classes as well as from their pre-Tuck careers and internships developing their private markets investment fluency, pattern recognition and judgement applied in the real-world context of actual small and middle market buyout acquisitions.

The overarching practical learning objective of the class is to enhance the students’ effectiveness in the private investment industry, whether that involvement comes through becoming an investor, becoming a manager of a private institutionally owned business, or as one of the many other participants (consultants, bankers, etc.) in the industry, through relevant, actionable, “real-world” experiential learning.

The class is delivered through two curricular elements:  a) Deal Review Lab: the review, preparation, presentation and group discussion/evaluation of a series of current and/or recent, real middle market buyout opportunity “cases” led by students to simulate an investment committee setting and b) Investment Thesis development: individual student research into an industry sub-segment or other theme to develop and deliver a potentially actionable private equity investment targeting thesis.

Strategy in Emerging Markets (SEM)

Professor Ramon Lecuona
A vast portion of the world’s population and growth opportunities are located in ‘emerging markets’ (i.e. nations with rapid economic growth but commercial infrastructure that is not fully developed). Can you use what you learned in your Core Strategy class to design strategies for companies operating in these countries? Certainly. However, there are other important elements that need to be considered, which are at the center of SEM. For example: 1) consumers’ willingness to pay for a product may be high, but their capacity to pay may be low due to income constraints; 2) limitations in the supply of basic inputs -such as capital or labor, or public goods -such as roads and electricity, may overly burden cost structures; and 3) on top of all of that, the legal system and courts may not function well, making it difficult to establish long-term contracts with buyers or suppliers. SEM is designed to give you an overarching perspective of strategy in emerging markets. We cover traditional sectors, such as mining and telecommunications, as well as those at the forefront of technology, such as the sharing economy and Fintech. We take the perspective of managers of large companies, as well as that of entrepreneurs who are starting or growing new ventures. We also travel the world, covering business activity in large (popular) emerging markets, including Brazil, China, and India, as well as in nations that are not traditionally covered by the business press, including Cuba and Liberia. SEM is an applied course, which provides an opportunity to put to practice robust academic principles in the context of case discussions and group exercises. We complement academic rigor with the latest from the world of practice by bringing subject matter experts as guest speakers to our class.

Venture Capital and Private Equity (VCPE)

Professor Gordon M. Phillips
The purpose of this class is to examine and understand the full spectrum of private equity investing including venture capital, growth equity, and buyouts as well as the limited partners that invest in the asset class (focusing on asset allocation) and the general partners who are the investment managers. Starting with asset allocation and the role of private equity as an asset class, the course will also consider general and limited partners, and the motivations and goals of investors in this asset class as well as their opportunities and choices among managers. The class will then study in detail the venture capital, buyouts and growth equity segments of the private equity industry with the goal of understanding the process of selecting investments in these spaces. This course is recommended for students interested in a career as 1) an investment profession in a venture capital/growth equity/buyout firm; 2) as a service provider to the private equity industry especially including consulting but also including banking, fundraising, executive search, and wealth management; 3) as a member of senior management of a venture-backed or PE-backed company; and 4.) as an investment professional interested in allocating money to the private equity asset class.

Venture Capital and Private Equity Basics (VCPEB)

Professor Gordon M. Phillips
The course covers the entire private equity sector (including venture capital, growth equity, and buyouts as well as institutional investors in the sector) of the economy. The course will focus on the basics of venture capital and private equity industries for students with less experience in finance and/or investing. The course will study VC/PE industry participants and explore their various perspectives, models, strategies, objectives, and challenges. Through cases and quantitative exercises, we will introduce the basic analysis and quantitative and qualitative factors involved in venture capital investing, growth equity financing, leveraged buyout (LBO) transactions. Class will incorporate quantitative exercises, cases and models but there will be fewer cases than the regular session of VCPE and we will examine them in greater depth over multiple class periods. We will also have more in-class exercises. Guest speakers will be an integral part of the course when we have cases.

Independent Studies

In their second year at Tuck, students can make use of the independent study option to customize their educational experience. Projects are grounded in the established fields of management, but they can cover a remarkable range of topics. Center faculty advise students undertaking independent study projects and provide contacts and information sources.  These projects allow students to investigate a specific aspect of private equity or venture capital beyond what is covered in the regular curriculum.
Independent Study topics from previous years have included:

  • Evolution of Limited Partners' Approach to Private Equity Investors
  • Investment Perspectives Into Medical Devices Venture Capital
  • Search Fund Acquisition in IT Services Industry
  • Investment Opportunities in the Consumer-Packaged Goods Industry
  • Mezzanine Debt Transactions: Market Activity and Findings
  • Investment Opportunities in the 3D Printing Industry
  • Private Equity in Sub-Sahara Africa
  • Search Fund Investment Opportunities
  • Experiential, independent studies advised by venture and buy-out industry practitioners

View a full listing of Tuck elective classes