First Round Capital is opening doors for entrepreneurs, literally and figuratively.
On Wednesday night, students and entrepreneurs mingled at Interns Meet the Founders, a reception hosted at the venture capital firm’s Locust Walk headquarters.
Although the event was not hosted by First Round itself, speakers at the event included founders of First Round funded companies.
One of the speakers, Todd Lieberman, president and co-founder of Solve Media, appreciated the exposure the event generated.
“As a funded entrepreneur from First Round and as an investor in the business, I wanted to raise the awareness of FRC in Philadelphia and bring students into these hallowed halls to get a sense of what goes on here,” Lieberman said.
First Round is also reaching out to student entrepreneurs in the region with the advent of the Dorm Room Fund, which will provide funding to startups run by University City students. The fund will be headed by a student investment committee.
First Round managing director and 1993 Wharton graduate Josh Kopelman said the idea came from the realization that student entrepreneurs have the right skill set to be investors.
“Students are gifted enough to create amazing companies. Why can’t they be gifted enough to invest in those same companies?” Kopelman said. “To believe otherwise is to underestimate students.”
DRF has $500,000 in investment funds and intends to invest $15,000 to $20,000 in startups over the next two years. In order to qualify for funding, a startup’s executive team must include at least one member who is a current student at a University City school.
The investment committee, which will be comprised of eight University City students, will decide which companies will receive funding and how much they’re awarded. DRF will run independently of the seed-stage venture capitalist firm but the firm will provide advising.
The First Round team is currently reviewing applications for the investment committee and will announce its decision after Thanksgiving. After the company selects who will head the committee, students will select their replacements themselves.
Wharton junior Isaac Sukin, who helped develop DRF while interning at First Round this summer, is the first member of the investment committee.
According to Sukin, college is the best time to be an entrepreneur because of the freedom to explore different ideas. “From a fund perspective, that creates really interesting opportunities to find companies you might not see experienced entrepreneurs doing,” he said.
Wharton sophomore Jasmine Kriston, who applied to be on the committee, hopes her entrepreneurial background will make her a more appealing candidate.
“Being an entrepreneur … opens your eyes for what markets are right for being disrupted, what ideas have an audience, which markets have too many competitors,” Kriston said. “You have to know the difference between an idea that has potential and one that doesn’t.”
Kriston also warned that startup owners should be mindful when looking for potential investors.
“When you’re doing early stage funding in particular, it’s important that your core values and what you aspire to do align with the resources and the venture capitalists values,” she said.
College sophomore David Gordon, who organized Wednesday’s reception, said it offered students a good opportunity to interact with business owners in an informal setting.
Gordon also praised the DRF concept, saying, “[It] is making venture capital more accessible for Penn students to gain [funding] and make connections.”