EP 11: How Penn Alumni Are Profiting from Venture Capital


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For this venture capitalist, connecting with former Penn classmates is more than just a social occasion. She helps Penn alumni invest in great businesses founded by fellow Penn graduates. (Listen) Episode Summary: When Gail Gilbert Ball enrolled in the University of Pennsylvania, she didn't know which field of study would hold her interest. She tried a few different areas before finding her passion in a newly introduced major called "econometrics." Now, years later, she is on the forefront of another new era, enabling Penn alumni to participate in an asset class they have traditionally not been able to access. As the founder and Managing Partner of Chestnut Street Ventures, Gail connects with Penn graduates to offer simple access to venture capital investing, to help build (and profit from) new businesses connected to fellow Penn alumni, and to support the entrepreneurial ecosystem of their shared alma mater. Gail's role reflects her deep affinity for a school and community that launched her career, as well as a lifetime fascination about how to effectively put money to work. Subscribe to Founders and Funders on iTunes, TuneIn, Stitcher, Google Play, iHeartRADIO, and Android Podcast Players. Introducing Gail Gilbert Ball Gail Gilbert Ball has held decision-making posts at nearly every seat around the financial services table. She's served as a banking executive, regulator, service provider, and board member—in both for-profit and social-impact markets. She most recently served as a Chief Operating Officer of The Bancorp Bank and filled other executive roles at PNC, Chase, Capital One, and NCO Financial Systems. Moreover, Gail headed the Payments Studies Group at the Federal Reserve Bank of Richmond and served as Board Member and Risk Committee Chair at Kompanion, Inc., one of Central Asia’s largest microfinance institutions. Gail has a Bachelors of Science degree in Economics, Finance and Statistics from Wharton (‘79). She is also the founder and Managing Partner of Chestnut Street Ventures (CSV), a venture capital fund serving Penn alumni investors and entrepreneurs — all under the Alumni Ventures Group (AVG) umbrella. Three Takeaways from This Podcast Gail's position as Founder and Managing Partner of Chestnut Street Ventures represents the perfect intersection of two passions she has nurtured throughout her career — a love of finance and a desire to stay connected with her alma mater. Gail went to the University of Pennsylvania, she says, "with insatiable curiosity." She studied Chinese, dabbled in music composition, attended Oxford for a semester, and finally found her way to a newly formed major nicknamed "econometrics." Studying under Thomas J. Sargent, a notable American economist and recent Nobel Prize winner, cemented Gail's desire to pursue a career in finance. The freedom to experiment with different areas of study en route to finding this field gave her a deep appreciation for Penn's approach to learning, and it inspired her to support the University in several ways after graduation. Of the eight alumni funds launched after the initial AVG fund — Green D Ventures, a VC fund for Dartmouth grads — Chestnut Street had one of the fastest and most successful inaugural fund raises at that point in company history. A large factor in that success was Gail's 30-plus years of fostering relationships with prospective Penn students, Penn alumni, and Penn faculty, as well as her previous leadership positions in University of Pennsylvania alumni organizations. In launching the fund, Gail simply reached out to the colleagues already in her social circle — CSV social events and information nights routinely get overbooked thanks to Gail's long list of Penn-connected friends and associates. Listen to this episode to learn more about Chestnut Street Ventures, to be introduced to three of the fund's portfolio companies, and to hear Gail's thoughts on the following topics: 1.

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