St. Olaf Magazine | Fall 2019

Piper Center Interns: Matt Whear ’20 and Sydney Wagner ’21

Matt Whear and Sydney Wagner, photographed at the Minneapolis Grain Exchange by Tom Roster
Matt Whear ’20
Mathematics major | Statistics and Management Studies concentrations
Sydney Wagner ’21
Economics major
Venture Capital Analyst Interns, Capita3
Minneapolis, Minnesota

When looking for an internship that would help them learn the knowledge and skills needed to succeed in the venture capital space, Sydney Wagner and Matt Whear were both drawn to Capita3. It is a small, early-stage venture capital fund that invests in women-led startups in the health care sector, particularly in the Midwest, an area that doesn’t see a lot of venture capital investment. The company supports women innovators in building their companies and hosts programs that help women grow their skills in leadership.

“There’s a huge inequity between the amount of funding that women as opposed to men receive, and Capita3 is trying to bridge that gap,” Wagner says. “What really stood out to me is that Capita3 isn’t just giving money to women entrepreneurs. They’re also focused on developing women as leaders. I find that mission really inspiring.”

While Whear and Wagner are both venture capital analyst interns, each is performing different duties. Wagner has primarily been researching industry and sector trends in the health care space. “I’m looking at where venture capital firms are investing their money and asking questions like ‘Does a women’s health care company have to have an app to be competitive?’” she says.

Whear has been studying deal syndication, researching other VC firms with similar missions to Capita3 that might become investment partners. He has been working on getting Capita3’s name in front of accelerators and incubators, as well as conducting some fund modeling. “I’ve been helping make a tool that models different fund allocation scenarios and have also created equity models for various investment opportunities,” he says.

Both students assist the firm with its “deal flow,” which helps venture capitalists track available investment opportunities so that they can find the most attractive ones, both in terms of risk and potential. The interns also had the opportunity to sit in on pitch meetings, listening to entrepreneurs and asking them questions about such things as marketing strategies and how they hope to outcompete other businesses.

“That was a great experience, and not an opportunity that most interns get,” Whear says.

As members of the cohort of St. Olaf’s Entrepreneurial Scholars program, Whear and Wagner benefit from being in a group of 10 students interning at startups and entrepreneurial ventures. Students in the program — established by a generous gift from Steve Moksnes ’61 and Billie Slethaug Moksnes ’61 to expand resources for entrepreneurial learning — receive funding from the Piper Center. They gather twice over the summer with the center’s Kirsten Cahoon, senior associate director of employer and alumni relations, and Margaret Bransford, associate director of entrepreneurship, to discuss their experiences and learn from each other’s successes and challenges.

Wagner has found that the skills she has developed in St. Olaf’s liberal arts environment have come in handy at Capita3. “While my accounting classes help with understanding cash flow and the different aspects of a financial statement, it’s the strong writing skills and critical and analytical thinking that I’ve developed at St. Olaf that have been most helpful,” she says, noting that Oles are comfortable wearing many different hats.

Whear says the work at Capita3 — combined with a previous internship at Traveler’s Insurance — has broadened his experience in combining his interests in math, statistics, and management, allowing him to apply what he has learned in the classroom in a hands-on setting.

“There’s so much to learn in an internship, from the real-world experience to figuring out if that particular work is really what you want to pursue,” says Whear. “This internship at Capita3 has been a good experience of mixing my interest in overall business with the more analytical side of finance.”