Applications for Class 23 are now closed.
Applications for Class 24 will open in early Fall.

If you would like to be alerted via email when applications are open, please submit an Interest Form.

Key Facts

Applications Open September 1, 2017
Application Deadline December 15, 2017 Application deadline has been extended until class is full; contact if you wish to apply, or to request timeline information
Program Start Date June 24–27, 2018
Program Duration 7 modules, each approximately 3.5 days in duration, held every quarter over the course of 2 years; and 2 global summits each approximately 1 week, once a year
Class Size 50 Fellows
Cost $80,000 for the 2-year Program

Program Structure

The Kauffman Fellows Program integrates structured and unstructured learning opportunities along with a self-developed, individualized 2-year development plan, peer learning, facilitated mentoring, executive coaching, and networking. We focus on a 4-element framework for optimizing success:

  • Develop self-awareness and understanding of one’s unique “zone of genius”
  • Define and refine one’s unique investment thesis based upon passions and convictions discovered in that zone of genius
  • Develop a personal brand, again in light of one’s zone of genius
  • Hone each participant’s ability to build and maintain deep relationships built on trust

The Program’s ultimate goal is for each Fellow to develop skills and strategies to be an effective and visionary “Top 5%” investor. Very often a Fellow will bring a well-articulated challenge to the module that they have been working on for months. Through 1-on-1 and class discussions with faculty, peers, and the Kauffman Fellows Team, they achieve clarity on their issue. A 90-day problem solved in 3 days—that’s a good return on investment. To optimize the learning experience and maximize the exchange of ideas, attendance at every module is required.

There are 7 modules, approximately 3.5 days each, held each quarter during the 2-year Program. Each constantly evolving module explores an essential theme of innovation investing such as running the firm as a business, best board practices, and optimizing talent environments.

Developing a global perspective and connecting Fellows with key players in emerging and developed ecosystems is a critical element in innovative leadership. Two global summits are held during the 2-year Program to further these goals. Past summits have been held in Beijing/Shanghai, Dublin, Kansas City, Mexico City, New York City, São Paulo, Singapore/Bali, and Tokyo. Our 2018 summit will be held in Tel Aviv/Jerusalem.

Fees & Funding

What is the cost of tuition?

Tuition for the 2-year Program is $80,000.

What does tuition cover?

Tuition covers all modules, educational materials, academic mentoring, and professional development, exclusive of transportation and lodging. Breakfast and lunch are provided. Tuition is non-refundable and non-transferrable.

When is tuition due?

Payment is due within 30 days of the invoice date, or upon receipt of the invoice if admission is within 60 days prior to the start of the Program.

What types of payment are accepted?

Payment can be made by electronic bank wire transfer or check. We do not accept credit cards. Detailed payment information is included with the invoice.

Is financial aid available?

Yes. However, the number of Kauffman Fellow Scholarships is quite limited, and only partially cover tuition. Scholarships do not cover travel and lodging. All are merit-based.

Most Fellows fund all or most of their tuition themselves, typically paid from personal assets and investments. Sometimes a Fellow’s firm will share the expense.

The Kauffman Foundation has provided a grant, which Kauffman Fellows administers, offering four scholarships per year to Fellows who meet the admissions requirements: two scholarships are available for Fellows who live in the Kansas City metro area; one scholarship for a Fellow from the Heartland states of Kansas, Iowa, Nebraska, and Missouri; and one scholarship for a Fellow from the greater Midwest area. View more information on the Heartland Scholarships.

Assessing Your Application

What do we look for in an application?


It’s important to express yourself clearly. Be specific. Be succinct. Can a reader who knows nothing about your firm or your role at the firm read your application, then turn to someone else who also knows nothing about you, and describe you well enough to get that person excited about you? There have been past candidates who would have both benefited from and contributed to Kauffman Fellows, but did not convey how great they are. Their applications did not stand out among the many we receive, nor did they engage us at an emotional level. We were both the poorer for it.


We want to feel connected to you. Your willingness to share important experiences in your life—and convey why they have been meaningful, joyous, torturous, or pivotal—will draw us in and will make you stand out. Your hobby of handling (live) alligators, running a craft brewery, or doing stand-up comedy on the weekends are all legitimate topics if you can relate that activity to how it has shaped your character and defined who you are. Avoid rehashing the accomplishments we can read on your LinkedIn page and opt instead for something that will make us say, “Now there’s an interesting candidate.”

Investing Experience

Kauffman Fellows is primarily a mastery program to help already-successful venture investors hone their skills in order to enhance entrepreneurs’ impact. As such, we give weight to your investing experiences as a venture capitalist, corporate venture investor, limited partner, private equity manager, family office manager, or angel investor.

The number of years as a full-time investor isn’t as important as the role you have played and your accomplishments—that number doesn’t tell the whole story. The number of deals you’ve led and the number of board seats you’ve held, however, gives us a general idea of your level of experience and the knowledge you can share with the class. If these numbers don’t paint the whole picture, we invite you to tell us more. We are most interested in the impact you have had on investment decisions.

We recognize that the innovation ecosystem is comprised of more than just investors.

We actively seek and have been enriched by exceptional Fellows who hold non-investing roles. Exceptional. What does that mean? People who have had or have the potential to create a big  impact on their ecosystem; who have already accomplished impressive goals; who, though they may not be investors, have spent significant time understanding venture investing in the service of those they serve.

We have welcomed ecosystem-builders in emerging markets, policymakers, managing directors of accelerators, trade association executives, COOs at VC and LP firms, and a VC firm data scientist. These Fellows represent a small but essential part of our society (12% in Class 22), and bring diversity of thought to the conversation.

The Firm

Although it isn’t the most critical element, we look at your venture firm. Is the firm investing its fourth fund or its first? The benefit of working at a firm that has raised four funds is, well, that they know how to raise funds and stay in business. We assume that the partners at the firm can share with you—either explicitly or via observation—best industry practices and that the firm has an excellent deal flow, has an excellent reputation among entrepreneurs, works with great co-investors, and so on. The firm’s track record is also considered. It consists of the number of portfolio companies they’ve invested in, capital efficiency (exits/capital invested), network centrality (connections to other firms), investment discipline (anecdotal), and most importantly, how honorably they do business. So we give some weight to your application if you work at a top VC firm, or a top accelerator, family office, corporate VC department, or other highly regarded organization.

On the other hand, if you are the founder or co-founder of a first or second fund, we recognize that that takes guts. You are not just an investor, but an entrepreneur. You know how to take a risk and put it all on the line. You started a fund to serve a certain sector—maybe an underserved one. So we give some weight to your investment thesis: why it is unique and why are you the one who will succeed in executing it.

Character of the Individual

Finally, we come to the most important element in the selection process: you, the complete person, the human being.

We are looking for honesty, self-awareness, and insights you have about yourself after past successes and failures, resilience to spring back from failure, and the optimism to imagine a different future. Unlike a typical job application, your honesty about your flaws is attractive to us. We are not looking for platitudes: “My biggest flaw is that I work too hard” or “I give 110% effort to every project.” Take a risk. Be open.

We are looking for people with intellectual curiosity and an openness to different points of view. People who have integrity, authenticity, vulnerability, empathy, gratitude, and humility. We have observed over the past 20+ years that Fellows with these traits relate to others in ways that can lead to deep levels of trust, fostering satisfying partnerships and lifelong friendships.

Summing It Up

We seek exceptional individuals to become Kauffman Fellows. Period. We don’t have rigid rules or requirements. Most candidates excel on some criteria, but are light on others.

Help us understand what is special about you. How can we help you achieve the impact you are trying to make, surmount the challenges you are facing, nurture the insights you can share?

We seek input from people who know you and can create a well-rounded view of your many facets. We seek involvement from your nominator, your recommenders, interviewers, and from the community when we conduct due diligence. And of course, we seek your own perspective via the application. From these sources, we assess your ability to gain value from the Kauffman Fellows experience for your own benefit, that of your firm, and as a global leader in innovation investing. We also consider how you will contribute to the Kauffman Fellows Network during the 2-year Program and afterward.


Exceptional candidates will be offered acceptance into the Kauffman Fellows Program  based on the strength of their nomination, application, recommendations, interviews, and the due diligence we conduct.

Kauffman Fellows is committed to providing an environment free from discrimination where all members of our community are treated with dignity and respect, and each individual is valued for their contribution and individuality. Fellows are selected for admission without regard to race, color, religion, creed, gender, gender expression, age, national or ethnic origin, ancestry, physical ability, marital status, sexual orientation, or military status.

Application to the Kauffman Fellows Program consists of three phases, described in more detail below.

  • PHASE 1 – NOMINATION: First, candidates are nominated by Kauffman Fellows, Kauffman Fellow Mentors, Faculty, or Board members, or the candidate’s Managing Director (if applicable); if such nominations are not attainable, the candidate may self-nominate.
  • PHASE 2 – APPLICATION: All nominations are carefully reviewed. Selected candidates are invited to participate in this second phase by completing our online application.
  • PHASE 3 – INTERVIEWS: Candidates with strong applications will then be invited to participate in a series of interviews with Fellows and the KF executive team—in person, when possible, or via online video.

From the many excellent candidates interviewed, we design a class of Fellows who will best contribute to each other’s learning, and support individual and mutual goals and successes.

Phase 1: Nomination

Nominations will be accepted online starting September 1, 2017. Candidates may be nominated by a Kauffman Fellow or Kauffman Fellows Board Member, Faculty, or Mentor using our online

Only one Nomination Form per candidate is needed.
Receiving multiple Nomination Forms causes processing difficulties and may delay your application process.

Nominations will also be accepted from a candidate’s Managing Partner (if applicable), regardless of affiliation with Kauffman Fellows.

One enduring legacy of our founder, Ewing Marion Kauffman, is providing opportunities to people with limited access to resources. In the spirit of continuing Mr. K’s legacy, if a candidate does not have a nominator, the candidate may self-nominate. If you would like to nominate yourself, please contact Katlyn Mease ( for instructions.

After your nomination has been reviewed—usually within a few business days—you may be invited to complete an online application.

Phase 2: Application

The application consists of two elements: the online application form, and 2 letters of recommendation. There is a $250 non-refundable application fee, payable through PayPal as part of the online application. Applications are accepted beginning September 1; the application window has been extended past its original December 15, 2017 deadline until the class is full. Contact if you would like to apply, or for timeline information.

The Admissions Committee will give careful consideration to all applications and notify candidates by January 2018 if they are invited to participate in the third phase, interviews. Candidates applying after the original December 15 deadline will be invited for interviews on a rolling basis until the class is full.

Candidates can download a PDF of the application to view the information requested in advance of completing the online application form.


We request that your two written recommendations come from individuals other than your Nominator. It is the candidate’s responsibility to send the recommendation form to these individuals and to ensure that their recommenders submit the form by the December 15 deadline. Applications cannot be considered until all documents have been received.

Please ask your recommenders to use our online

Only two Recommendation Forms per candidate will be accepted.
Aadditional Recommendation Forms may cause administrative delays in your application process.

The best recommendations are written by individuals who know you in your capacity as an investing professional, and as a human being.

One recommendation should be written by someone who can knowledgeably speak to your investing abilities.

    • If you are the most senior partner at your firm, please submit a recommendation from a peer at another firm or from a board member.
    • If you are not the most senior partner at your firm, please submit a recommendation from your Managing Director or direct supervisor.

The second recommendation should be from an entrepreneur with whom you have worked closely.

If you have questions about selecting recommenders, please contact Katlyn Mease (

Phase 3: Interviews

Each application is given careful consideration by the Admissions Committee. Candidates with strong applications will be invited to interview with Kauffman Fellows and Kauffman Fellows Team members during January and early February 2018. Candidates who apply after the original December 15 application deadline will be interviewed on a rolling basis until the class is full.

The written application only goes so far in portraying an accurate picture of who you are. There is much more we’d like to know about you—and you about us. What we desire in our interviews is a sincere two-way interaction that gives us a window into how your mind works and who you are as a human being. We want to hear about your goals, motivations, passions and strengths—and also those areas you are hoping to strengthen in the Program. We want to know how the experiences of your personal journey formed your character as a unique person.

We prefer to interview candidates in person, but given the geographic dispersion of our applicants, we often connect via Skype or other video conferencing app. You will be interviewed by two or three Fellows and by senior KF Team members. Interviews typically run 30 – 60 minutes.


Class 23 will be composed of approximately 50 Fellows. It isn’t possible to predict exactly how many candidates will accept an offer of admission. To help manage these uncertainties, we maintain a waitlist.

The waitlist is by invitation only. We offer a select group of qualified candidates the option of placing themselves on the list. This list is not ranked. If there are seats available, on or around May 1 we will review all candidates on the list and offer admission to the candidates whom we feel best complete the class. These candidates will then have 7 calendar days from the date of notification to accept admission and pay tuition.

Candidates admitted from the waitlist are still eligible for a scholarship. However, our scholarships are very limited, so it would be prudent to make alternative arrangements to pay full tuition. Candidates are under no obligation to accept a spot on the waitlist and can remove themselves at any time.