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Innovator Fellowship FAQs
What is a venture capital firm and what will I be doing with them?
Venture capital firms provide funding to startups and early-stage companies with novel ideas or innovations. Their money often comes from private investors, and a VC firm invests in these startups in hopes the company succeeds and makes a profit, thus earning them (and their investors) a return on their money.
Fellows may perform a variety of duties or projects while engaging and learning at a VC firm. A common element is learning to perform due diligence– fellows use their technical expertise to assess startups for promising technologies, and learn what to look for when assessing whether an early-stage initiative is likely to succeed. Fellows may help with deal flow, market analysis, and any variety of initiatives for the VCs.
Does the timing of the fellowship need to line up with the academic calendar?
No. In general, we try and time recruitments so they roughly align with academic quarters, but it is not critical. We are very flexible, and find that the most important aspect to synch up on is that the fellow joins the VC host during a time when the fellow will have maximum exposure to due diligence process and hopefully participate in the full spectrum of the deal-making process.
Will I be able to continue my UCD research?
During the first three months of your fellowship, you will be completing this remotely and part-time, allowing you to continue your research at a reduced commitment (50%). During the final three months, you are expected to put your research on hold due to the intensive commitment to the venture capital firm.
If there are aspects of your research (live animals, bacteria, etc.) that cannot be put “on hold” we will work with you and your PI to see if we can design a schedule that allows you to maximize learnings and time with the VC while not jeopardizing your research in any way.
Can I apply to the fellowship more than once?
Yes! Please! We encourage you to apply to any open opportunities, and if you are not selected, we encourage you to re-apply to the next round. Every VC is looking for something slightly different in a fellow. Successful applications are a match-making process between candidates and VCs.
Do I need to have experience in business or venture capital to apply?
Experience with business or innovation is NOT required, however, it may make an applicant a more competitive candidate. We hope that fellows have demonstrated an interest in entrepreneurship by participating in any of the many innovation activities and entrepreneurial opportunities on the UCD campus. For fellows with less experience, we will connect you with campus opportunities during your 6 months with us.
Do I need to be in a STEM field?
You do not need to be in a STEM field to apply. We encourage candidates with a demonstrated interest in entrepreneurship and/or potentially translatable research from any field to apply; however the venture capital firms we partner fellows with generally focus on food, climate, agriculture and similar fields that tend to favor the technical sciences.
Who can apply?
Graduate students pursuing their PhD in their final ~2 years of study who have completed their qualifying exams, and postdoctoral scholars at UC Davis will be considered. Undergraduates, MS/MA students and PhD students pre-candidacy are currently not eligible for this fellowship.
How "transferable" does my research need to be when applying?
It is not required that your research is transferable, but if it is, this fellowship can help you move that translation process forward. Ideal candidates will have both a demonstrated interest in entrepreneurship and potentially translatable research.
What are the venture capital groups looking for (excellent research, potential contribution, etc.)?
The common denominator that all VCs primarily look for is technical expertise in candidates. Beyond technical expertise, each VC may have slightly different criteria. We encourage applicants to apply to both VCs each round and to re-apply in the future if they are not selected.
What will the fellowship funds cover?
IIFH will cover your expenses for up to $50K in funding for six months. This includes salary, tuition and fees, travel, professional development (eg. conferences) and research expenses. If the residency is onsite with the firm outside of Davis, IIFH will also cover the cost of your temporary accommodation (usually an apartment rental) so that you do not need to pay double rent in Davis and the new location for those three months. In total, IIFH will offer up to $50K per opportunity.
What are the expectations and deliverables?
Every fellow will be asked to complete different projects and work depending on the venture capital firm they are paired with and their strengths. This is up to 50% of time for the first three months and 100% of time for the second three.
Students must also attend a kickoff meeting with their PI, their VC representative, and IIFH’s director and coordinator. At the completion of their six months they must also present a 5-10 slide presentation on learnings and future direction to this same audience, as well as complete a final written report.
Participating fellows are expected to attend IIFH events that happen during the duration of their fellowship, and are encouraged to attend any additional professional development and social activities that are shared during their program dates.
How does switching funding work?
You must have an active GSR account set up with your current department through which we can remit your salary. In general, students continue to be compensated at the rate they had been prior to the fellowship. It will look as it had in prior quarters, only now IIFH will be footing the bill.
Can I apply to the Innovator Fellowship if I am on another fellowship?
Yes, we have hosted fellows who are two simultaneous fellowships as long as the requirements of each do not conflict. Please get in touch with us to discuss the details as each case can vary. For example, many fellowship programs offered by the Institute for Innovation and Entrepreneurship require attendance at MBA classes, which cannot be completed if you are physically in another city for your IIFH commitment.
Can I take classes during the fellowship?
No, students generally cannot participate in coursework during the fellowship—however, if there is a specific non-negotiable around this, we will work with fellows to explore solutions.
Will I become a part of a network of past and current Innovator Fellows?
Yes! Our network of fellows and VCs is always growing. We host networking events among our fellows, with outside partners, and within the UCD network.
Will there be an NDA in place during interview process?
The University of California and our host VCs sign an NDA (non-disclosure agreement) when we initially enter into a partnership agreement. As a student of the university, you, the interviewee, would be covered under that same NDA.