Cortado Ventures Investment Intern Aaron Salazar Latham reflects on his internship experience to date.

Cortado Ventures Founder Hour featuring (L-R) Brandon King of Fansub, Mansi Patel of Cortado, Kristin Garcia of The Verge OKC, Susan Moring of Cortado, Andres Gonzalez of Cadenzo, Aaron Salazar Latham of Cortado and Chris Davis of Fansub.

This is the second part of a two part series by our Summer 2022 interns Brooks Hensley and Aaron Salazar Latham.

TLDR: What is Cortado Ventures Internship program exactly?

The Cortado Ventures internship program allows interns to gain real experience working on a venture capital investment team. Interns are responsible for due diligence, meeting with entrepreneurs, taking part in investment team meetings, and working to advance the success of the Oklahoma entrepreneurial community.

Cortado interns are encouraged to utilize any prior skills or experiences they have in the pursuit of interests they have in the firm outside of the work above. Special projects will vary depending on the distinct interest of each individual intern.

Who is Aaron Salazar Latham?

My name is Aaron Salazar Latham and I am a senior at The University of Oklahoma studying Management Information Systems and Entrepreneurship. Prior to joining Cortado, I worked in the information technology field for about 3 and a half years and part-time with the Oklahoma City Thunder NBA team. What piqued my interest in VC was my time interning with Privacy Brain, a Cortado portfolio company, in Summer 2021. This experience led me to a passion for working with startup companies and by extension led to my introduction to Cortado’s team and venture capital. Going forward, I am looking to continue my contribution to Oklahoma’s entrepreneurial ecosystem through a continuation of my internship with Cortado Ventures through the fall semester along with a simultaneous internship at Boyd Street Ventures, a new VC firm focused on investing in OU-affiliated companies.

What were the special projects you all worked on?

Something that I particularly enjoy is telling the story of a given idea or investment. This led me to an interest in the blog content and platform side of the firm, and since that time I’ve had the chance to contribute to several of our blog posts previously along with several that will be coming in the next few months. As the year rolls on, perhaps expect to even see something published that I wrote!

Favorite part about interning at Cortado Ventures?

For me, the most remarkable part about interning with Cortado Ventures is the absolute quality of professionals you have the pleasure of interacting with and learning from.

At the firm level, each Cortado team member is not only incredibly accomplished and experienced, but also incredibly humble and willing to supply their network and perspective to a young, early-career intern.

Outside the firm, many of the entrepreneurs that we work with are just brilliant in their respective fields. Having the invaluable opportunity to establish relationships with and to soak in any and all knowledge and perspective from these players has provided me with an uncommonly complete view of the industry and connection to the local community at such an early stage of my career.

What did we learn and take away from interning with Cortado?

I think it goes without saying that venture capital is a game of relationships and having the ability to quickly synthesize a gamut of information that is thrown at you at any given moment into an actionable, shareable takeaway that decision makers can derive value from.

Interning at Cortado Ventures specifically provides the benefit of a fast-paced and ever-changing environment, but at a relatively small firm. This combination has undoubtedly proven to me how crucial it is to master the skills listed above, and out of necessity it has, in just a short time, granted me a wide variety of experience across all phases and aspects of an early-stage venture capital firm.

This is mainly due to the fact that there is always work to be done, and understanding that as an intern you can capitalize on this for your career’s own betterment and exposure. Learning to leverage this skillset and tap into the network of likeminded individuals at the firm has truly leveled up my understanding of what it takes to be not only an early-stage venture capitalist, but to be a VC in an underserved market like Oklahoma in which we actively play a part each day in pioneering this investment class. Framing a deep understanding of the way each of these pieces of the puzzle fit together is a viewpoint and mindset that is indispensable in the VC/Startup world, and the Cortado Ventures internship does a fantastic job of teaching that.

Ok, so what does Cortado Ventures do and how do they stand out in the VC landscape?

Cortado Ventures is an early-stage venture capital firm that invests in ambitious, growth-driven companies defining a new generation of economic prosperity for Oklahoma and the Midcontinent region. Primarily investing from Pre-Seed to Series A, Cortado Ventures focuses on companies within Fintech, Biotech, Aerospace, Ag Tech, Energy Tech, Manufacturing and Logistics sectors. At just over two years old and 28 investments later, Cortado Ventures is performing in the top 10 percent of all VC funds in the nation and is the number one emerging firm in the region and number six overall. Cortado’s Partners are all successful entrepreneurs and senior executives that have built companies in the regions and sectors that the firm focuses on, leaving a wealth of experience to leverage when capitalizing upon the opportunity that exists in the Midcontinent.

What is the kind of work you do during the internship?

Cortado interns primarily work through each stage of the lifecycle of a deal, from sourcing to final investment memo. Additionally, interns often represent the firm at community events across the state, interacting with the leaders and contributors that work to ensure the success of the burgeoning Oklahoma entrepreneurial ecosystem. Therefore, nearly all the work that a Cortado intern will do can be grouped into three buckets: sourcing, due diligence, and platform/ecosystem engagement.

  • Sourcing: As interns we played a vital role in sourcing investment deals. We attended startup pitch events, scoured through our deal flow mechanisms for interesting companies that might be a thesis match, and established relationships with founders and other contributors to the startup ecosystem. Once we came across startups that we found promising we dropped them into the firm’s pipeline database to begin the due diligence process.
  • Due Diligence: If you were to walk into the Cortado office this summer, odds are you would have caught interns conducting diligence on startups within our pipeline. We often worked to kick off the due diligence process by analyzing startups in the pipeline to understand if they pass the first filter of the firm’s thesis. Those that match these initial criteria typically advance to an introductory meeting, during which we often represented the firm by asking relevant questions, like asking what their current traction was or their outlook on the competitive landscape, and taking notes to gain a deeper understanding of the startup. Over the summer we conducted around 25 initial meetings with founders! We then used this data to make recommendations to the investment committee or synthesize a report to a Cortado industry advisor for review. As startups advanced further into the diligence process, we conducted extensive research into its target market, built excel models to assess financial viability, benchmarked the startup’s competitors, and synthesized gathered findings into investment memos.
  • Platform/Ecosystem Engagement: In addition to the typical investment work, we interacted with the growing entrepreneurial ecosystem in the state of Oklahoma. An example of this was when we attended the Lightship Capital Showcase at the Philbrook Museum in Tulsa where we learned about Lightship’s accelerator program and caught up with Edna Martinson and Clarence Tan from Boddle Learning, a Cortado portfolio company. Overall, we attended 6 community events in roughly two and a half months!.

To apply for a 2023 Cortado Ventures Internship, visit our site.

We want to thank Aaron for his service with Cortado Ventures and enjoy having him on our team.

We also want to thank the Oklahoma Center for the Advancement of Science and Technology (OCAST) for its support through its Internship Partnership Program.

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