Redefining entrepreneurship & finance education through collaboration

Assistant Professor Drew Peabody and Alyssa Martina, Executive Director of the Doherty Center for Creativity, Innovation & Entrepreneurship, aim to set Elon apart as a frontrunner in delivering a dynamic business education with a new “Venture Capital Financing” course.

For the two faculty members who developed it, a new course offered this fall was more than just an upper-level elective for students with an entrepreneurial spirit: it was a catalyst for building a community of future business and finance leaders.

Assistant Professor Drew Peabody and Alyssa Martina, Executive Director of the Doherty Center for Creativity, Innovation & Entrepreneurship, team taught “Venture Capital Financing,” a new offering meant to bridge a gap between finance and entrepreneurship while equipping students with a comprehensive skill set to excel in business.

“Having two different professors allowed for a more well-rounded course and provided insightful perspectives that varied based on their experiences,” said Ben Postell ’24, a finance and business analytics major from Chattanooga, Tennessee. “With Professor Peabody’s finance background and Professor Martina’s legal and entrepreneurial background, they were able to give deep insights with real-world examples.”

Two professors teaching venture capital financing at business school

While coaching at the previous year’s Venture Capital Investment Competition, Peabody and Martina noted that other universities offered upper-level venture capital finance courses. Recognizing Elon student interest in the subject, the two professors were granted approval to collaborate in the creation of an academically rigorous course that emphasized crucial venture financial and legal concepts for finance and entrepreneurship students.

Martina describes the course as a “nexus of all the business fields” where students are immersed in a multifaceted exploration of strategy, management, entrepreneurship principles, finance, marketing, and law. What also made the course structure unique, Martina said, was their team approach to teaching.

Ten guest speakers and hands-on exercises opened doors to diverse perspectives and provided practical experiences and applications. One feature was having entrepreneurs with active start-ups present to the students in real-time.

“The venture capital sector is notoriously challenging to break into,” said Maddy Burgess, a double major in entrepreneurship and music from Green Bay, Wisconsin. “This course has equipped me with the skills and confidence to enter this field.”

Popular among some students was a guest visit by C. Ashton Newhall ’98, a partner at StepStone Group Inc., a global private markets investment firm. Newhall delivered the Commencement address to Elon University’s Class of 2023 and Postell, who saw the address, remembered thinking at the time that he’d like to have a conversation with Newhall.

“Little did I know, I would be learning from him,” Postell said.

Martina and Peabody’s students likewise praised Shea Coakley ’07, a five-time founder specializing in ventures to improve happiness, who also spoke with the class. “Every speaker was unique and shared a new viewpoint,” said Sofia Ballance ’24, a double major in finance and entrepreneurship from Potomac, Maryland. “Mr. Coakley was incredibly down to earth, honest and gave great insight into being a serial entrepreneur.”

Students in the class hope to use their knowledge as they prepare for upcoming venture capital collegiate competitions. Peabody and Martina said they are grateful for the support they received from administrators in the Martha and Spencer Love School of Business and are now reviewing student feedback in order to improve “Venture Capital Financing” in future semesters.