Don McGowan

Master of Business Administration, Class of 2008

Owner, Undiscovered Ventures

Give us a brief recap of your career since you graduated from Owen:

I’ve been in the investment world forever. I’ve done almost everything from managing portfolios of blue chip stocks to working in private equity investments. It wasn’t easy, especially since I graduated from Owen during the recession.

Today, I’m working to change the face of venture capital. I found my passion when an investment opportunity came across my desk, but my hands were tied. A startup with a great idea (and a cause) needed help, but they couldn’t afford the standard rate and had a few bad contracts. It broke my heart. I set out to fix venture capital with my current business, Undiscovered Ventures.

What is Undiscovered Ventures?

Our name comes from the Blue Ocean Strategy, which is the simultaneous pursuit of differentiation and low cost; to open up new markets and create new, inelastic demand. Instead of getting into fierce competition, we help our companies discover new markets, processes, and products to allow them to create their own categories and a demand that is not influenced by price.

The goal is to introduce seed funding from family offices and corporations to accredited accelerator program and university graduates. We are currently working with Ohio State, Baylor, Arkansas, and Stanford – to name a few.

Our platform is different. We are the only firm to use Crowd Smart, a data-driven, early-stage investment platform that combines AI and collective intelligence to identify the world’s top startups. And each of these then goes through multiple program efforts before receiving funding. We use a radical new mentoring approach, offer sales support and verify financial support to ensure startups have enough runway to meet their goals.

These facts speak for themselves:

  • 75% of our founders are over the age of 39
  • 50% of our founders are parents
  • 90% of our founders have had a successful previous exit
  • 59% of our founder are woman or minority owners

You’ve mentioned how impactful mentoring can be, can you speak to that more?

Once a startup reaches the fourth and final tier of our Launch and Scaling Program, both the mentoring and a sales advocate is available. Mentoring is more than advice. By bringing key customers, business processes, and market strategies, Undiscovered Ventures dramatically increases both the likelihood of success, but also the size of the eventual payout. Corporate and Institutional Investors can amplify this program even further by providing their cost savings and resources to their Portfolio companies.

How has the Owen community been helpful in the process?

When we were thinking about starting Undiscovered Ventures we actually went to Professor Michael Burcham for advice. Especially regarding our new approach to the mentoring process. We learned a lot from Burcham here too.

What I really love about Vanderbilt is the difference between the openness of this community versus everywhere else – it’s staggering. Now that I’m a parent, the quality of the people, especially after school, is the type of place I want for my children. It’s about the people, the best and finest I’ve ever worked with. Competitive not cut throat.