Yale student startups have a new potential funding outlet in Dorm Room Fund, a student-run venture capital firm backed by First Round Capital that provides $20,000 on average to help accelerate new student ventures. “The purpose of Dorm Room Fund is to support promising student founders in taking their ideas to market and to inspire students to engage in the startup community,” says Viveca Morris (YC ’15) who along with David Chi (YC ’16) was chosen to represent Dorm Room Fund at Yale this year. The two meet with interested student entrepreneurs on Tuesday and Friday mornings at a newly converted space across the hall from the Yale Entrepreneurial Institute.
Student entrepreneurs have at least two meetings with Morris and Chi before submitting their online application. After that, the team may be invited to pitch to the 14 Dorm Room Fund investment partners on the New York City team, which includes representatives from Columbia University, New York University, Princeton University, Cornell-Tech and Cooper Union in addition to Yale. (Dorm Room Fund has additional chapters in the Bay Area, Philadelphia and Boston).
Chi says the ventures they are looking to fund are ones for which $20,000 will be a meaningful investment. “One way for that money to be spent is toward reaching a milestone that informs the founders if their idea will work,” he says. Software companies are often able to make an impact with $20,000, he continues, particularly when they use it to hire a talented developer, although hardware companies might use the money to build a prototype to show proof of concept.
In addition to working with YEI to meet with teams in its programs, Morris and Chi plan to reach out to students taking CS112 and 113—Intro to Programming and Programming and Entrepreneurship—which will emphasize app building. They are also in touch with the Yale Entrepreneurial Society and other groups on campus. Morris spent last summer learning to code as part of YEI’s Tech Bootcamp—a 10-week coding immersion program that may be another fertile source for new tech entrepreneurs.
Chi, who has worked as an analyst at Lone Star Investment Advisors and Abdiel Capital, says he’s looking closely at teams but real world experience is not always required. “We have met founders that have done an exceptional job of understanding markets that they haven’t worked in,” he says. “They have demonstrated tremendous hustle—cold calling industry experts, tapping into their alumni networks.”
Morris adds that Dorm Room Fund also adds value to its portfolio companies by providing legal and business services, mentors and networking opportunities. “Dorm Room Fund is founded on the idea that you can start a meaningful company while remaining at school,” she says. “It’s exciting to see so many highly creative, capable and motivated Yale students focused on building solutions to challenging problems.”Read More