Dorm Room Fund selects student investment committee

DRF works with venture capital firm First Round Capital, which opened this semester

· December 6, 2012, 12:50 am

The Dorm Room Fund is now open for business.

On Tuesday morning, the venture fund announced its investment committee. Made up of nine Penn and two Drexel students, the committee will make capital investments between $10,000 and $20,000 in student-run startups.

A joint endeavor with First Round Capital, DRF is unique in that it connects student investors with student entrepreneurs.

“We’re students as well, so it’s personally important to each one of us that we can make a difference in the Philadelphia student entrepreneurship community,” said Wharton junior Isaac Sukin, a member of the investment committee who helped plan for DRF’s launch while interning at First Round Capital.

Prior to going public, the committee had been working on the structure of the organization, creating bylaws and figuring out the best way to find companies to invest in. Now, they’ve begun their search for entrepreneurs.

Founded by College junior Dan Shipper and Wharton seniors Justin Meltzer and Patrick Leahy, DRF’s first portfolio company is Firefly, a startup which was first introduced at the January 2012 PennApps hackathon.

Firefly offers a service which allows companies to share computer screens with their customers without having to download or install any software onto their hard drive. This makes for a more efficient customer service experience.

“They have a very clear target market and a clear way to generate revenue,” Wharton and College senior Talia Goldberg said of why they selected the students’ company. “They’re extremely motivated and talented.”

Sukin said he’s excited to see the results of what began as a summer project now that the investment team has been solidified. Members of the team have a wide array of entrepreneurial experience from both the tech and business sides.

“Our diverse range of talents and our diverse backgrounds and interests do a good job of complementing the group such that we have a comprehensive skill set,” said Wharton and Engineering junior Pulak Mittal.

Mittal believes his involvement in the tech community at Penn made him stand out as an applicant. “I’m very well connected in the computer science community, and I’m involved in the type of things that can be adapted into related events for the Dorm Room Fund,” he said. In addition to his computer science involvement, Mittal is president of the Dining Philosophers and a PennApps hackathon co-organizer.

Goldberg’s business acumen is also an asset to the committee. Goldberg, who has previously worked at Bessemer Venture Partners, is pursuing an individualized degree in entrepreneurial business strategy and social communication.

“I’ve been able to contribute some of my knowledge, and it’s a good experience to be able to offer input from what I’ve learned,” she said.

Goldberg said DRF intends to do more than just give students capital to support their companies. They plan on providing legal, marketing and media advisement and helping the companies with advertising.

In addition, the students of DRF have a mission aside from supporting promising student businesses. According to Sukin, being on DRF presents an opportunity to prove the viability of students as investors.

“It’s important that we demonstrate to the world that students can build great companies [and they] can identify those companies,” he said. “We believe we can show not only that we can help students start amazing companies, but that there’s nothing that students can’t do.”

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