Modules and Curriculum
The two-year program is comprised of a structured curriculum presented in seven modules, approximately 3.5 days each, held approximately every quarter. Classes are held in the San Francisco Bay Area, New York City, and other cities which have built innovative entrepreneurial ecosystems such as Los Angeles and London.
Each constantly evolving module explores an essential theme of innovation investing. The seven modules focus on leadership essentials; developing and refining your investment thesis; seeing, picking, and winning the deal; personal brand; board best practices; talent ecosystems; the human dynamic; running the firm as a business; and fundraising. To enrich the curriculum and to add a fresh perspective, additional topics are discussed, such as design thinking, diversity, ethics, social responsibility, and life balance. Some sessions are designed to disrupt comfortable assumptions.
Sessions are led by top investors, limited partners, entrepreneurs, university professors, global experts, and the Kauffman Fellows Team. The format of each session is designed to engage Fellows, including structured discussions, fireside chats, moderated panels, hands-on workshops, small group projects, and counterpoint dialogues between speakers with differing models and opinions. The exchange of ideas is often quite lively, very candid, nuanced, and ultimately thought- and action-provoking.
At the first module, Fellows participate in a series of immersive leadership-development experiences. These sessions are designed to provide the insight, knowledge, skills, and personal coaching necessary to assess and enhance their leadership style, skills, and organizational performance.
In the second module, Fellows map the knowledge gained in Module 1—their zones of genius, passions, and convictions—onto their current investment thesis. Major topics focus on portfolio design, nuances of term sheets, deals and deal structuring, and other advanced topics. As in all modules, a wide variety of points of view are presented from successful GPs, founders, and leading experts.
During this module, Fellows explore what it takes to build and maintain one’s personal brand, including how to differentiate oneself in the market and develop a unique value proposition in the marketplace. Because performance as a board member is one of the most impactful ways to build and maintain a personal brand, Fellows also explore best practices of board members. Topics include building value-added relationships, coaching entrepreneurs, creating a company culture, and defining exit strategies.
The fourth module focuses on developing networks of entrepreneurial talent as well as understanding how to add value to portfolio companies. Fellows practice and assess their skill set, learn a variety of coaching models, and consider the commitment it takes to become a truly trusted advisor.
During this module, Fellows consider requirements for launching, growing, and managing a successful investment group as an ongoing business. Topics include raising a fund; differentiating the firm through philosophy, strategy, and constructive communication; negotiating the partnership structure and incentives; understanding legal and structural issues; optimizing back-office operations; navigating firm dynamics; cultivating long-term relationships with limited partners; and exploring exit strategies.
The sixth module integrates and applies elements of leading successfully in the innovation investment space. Sessions offer a useful synthesis of knowledge, skills, and values to bring forward as their second year concludes. Fellows are challenged to consider how they will create a legacy through their leadership opportunities to give back to the industry, to their local and regional communities, to efforts that shape the larger global economy, and to the Kauffman Fellows Network.
The final module incorporates keynote speakers and presentations by outgoing Fellows. A dinner and graduation ceremony cap the day, recognizing graduating Fellows and acknowledging and thanking their Mentors and sponsoring firms. While the final module is known as “graduation,” it is just the beginning of a lifelong engagement with Kauffman Fellows.
One or two global summits are held during the 2-year Program. Summits are a reunion of the entire Kauffman Fellows Network, held in locations with compelling innovation ecosystems, to introduce different cultures and approaches to venture investing. Many Fellows find the summits to be a highlight of the two year program as they provide a unique opportunity for Fellows in the Program to meet and form deeper relationships with the broader Kauffman Fellows community. Content is determined by the characteristics of each ecosystem and is designed through guidance and assistance from the local Fellows. Past summits have convened in Israel, Kansas City, Singapore, Ireland, Brazil, China, Mexico, New York City, and Japan.
Kauffman Fellows Faculty are deeply knowledgeable in their fields and generously offer open, transparent dialogue about issues that are rarely raised, whether it is the elephant in the room or the skeleton in the closet. Their insights come from years or decades of introspection and self-awareness, sometimes from multiple failures, and often through recognition of patterns that others rarely see. KF Faculty often offer a point of view that can inspire or disrupt.
As successful practitioners, most Faculty are “Top 5%ers” and know what it takes to help others attain that level. They share, in an open and vulnerable way, insights gained from both successes or failure. We are proud that our faculty includes the following individuals:
- Albert Wenger, Union Square Ventures
- Ann Miura-Ko, Floodgate
- Aydin Senkut, Felicis Ventures
- Bedy Yang, 500 Startups
- Beezer Clarkson, Sapphire Ventures
- Brad Feld, Foundry Group
- Bill Gurley, Benchmark
- Bryan Roberts, Venrock
- Dana Settle, Greycroft
- David Hornik, August Capital
- Eurie Kim, Forerunner Ventures
- Freada Kapor, Kapor Capital
- Fred Wilson, Union Square
- Jason Green, Emergence Capital
- Jennifer Fonstad, Aspect Ventures
- Jenny Lee, GGV Capital
- Jeff Clavier, Uncork Capital
- Josh Kopelman, First Round Capital
- Mamoon Hamid, Kleiner Perkins, Caufield & Byers
- Mike Maples, Floodgate
- Renata Quintini, Lux Capital
Upon acceptance into the class, Fellows will select 1-2 Mentors who will complement learnings from modules and peers, by providing another perspective and individual support. Kauffman Fellow Mentors play a vital role in helping Fellows through guidance, feedback, and support so that they may achieve the two-year goals they establish in their first module. They accelerate a Fellow’s learning through quarterly feedback reviews and help guide the Fellow to create a Personal Development Plan (PDP), or “career roadmap” of specific steps and measurable outcomes in investing skills, board roles, portfolio company involvement, LP relations, and interpersonal style.
All Fellows are a member of a 6- or 7-person Peer Forum which meets monthly, both virtually and in-person, throughout the two year experience. Forums create a space to facilitate self-directed and supportive learning, idea exchange, and self-exploration in a confidential and trusted environment. Through sharing, listening, and peer coaching, this environment is rich in open and honest communication where relationships deepen and personal growth is fostered.
Peer coaching develops the ability to gain clarity for self and others, increase self-knowledge, and deepen relationships through open and honest communication. The peer coaching process develops and enhances leadership skills such as listening, questioning, diagnosing problems, managing difficult people, focusing issues, giving and receiving feedback, influencing, and facilitating. Forums are a place of deep respect, accountability, and often the beginning of lifelong friendships.
Although not mandatory, a deeper understanding and a greater sense of trust is fostered during unstructured time spent outside the classroom over coffee or dinner, in peer learning sessions scheduled prior to each module, and in off-site, class-initiated trips near module locations before or after modules. Many Fellows feel these activities provide the time and space to reflect on family and career, and to design a life that is impactful, fulfilling, and joyful.