Philly Dorm Room Fund adds four new members


Three Wharton and Engineering sophomores and one College junior are joining the team




The Philly Dorm Room Fund is taking its largest set of new student investors since its founding.

The fund, which is backed by First Round Capital, is adding Engineering and Wharton sophomores Nilesh Kavthekar, Tim Miller and Lauren Reeder, as well as College junior Matt Gibstein, to its squad. The $2 million Philadelphia investment team was the first of four current Dorm Room Fund teams. 

These student investors will be exposed to the world of venture capital as they invest in student-led startups from across Philadelphia. All four expressed their anticipation to join the team of student investors, in what they all believe will be an invaluable learning experience.

“The Doom Room Fund presents a tremendous 360-degree learning opportunity,” Gibstein said. “I’m extremely excited to learn from my fellow investment team members, hear from student entrepreneurs about the challenges they’re tackling in innovative capacities and ultimately, gain a better understanding of venture capital from the investment side."

At the same time, the new members expressed their enthusiasm about helping others get their ideas off the ground.

“It will be really awesome to see what students in Philly come up with, and it will be really nice to help them achieve success," Reeder said. “We have the experience to give these startups the proper advice and resources to make sure they succeed in their current venture.”

The Daily Pennsylvanian sat down with all four new student investors to talk about startups, venture capital and their eagerness about joining the Philly Dorm Room Fund.

Nilesh Kavthekar

  • Wharton and Engineering sophomore
  • Computer Engineering and Entrepreneurial Management
  • Naperville, Illinois

Tell us something interesting about yourself...

I moved around nine times in the US. I’ve been on both coasts. I was born in Michigan, moved to Chicago, then Hackensack, New Jersey, back to Chicago, to Los Angeles and finally moved back to Chicago, which I now call home.

What got you interested in venture capital?

I grew up reading technology and gadget blogs. I remember hearing about Internet companies that were booming, and I wondered where they got their credibility from. At the time the iPhone started taking off, a company called Kleiner Perkins launched the iFund, specifically investing in iOS apps at the time, and I just thought that it was such an interesting model that an external group was funding these apps and expecting to make a good return on them.

What experience do you have in the field?

I’m a computer engineer, learning a lot about new hardware technology coming out. I got some experience working for a digital health startup last summer called Globus Genomics. Last year, I organized a tech startup competition called Pennvention, where I was able to see what worked well with some companies and what didn’t. This gave me insight into what investors would look for in a startup company.

What is one of your favorite startups?

I love Zappos.com. I think there’s nothing like their culture. I think it’s really cool that Tony Hsieh believed in his company so much that he let people play as much as they worked. They changed the idea of a workplace, making it more of your home and family then your office and your coworkers.

What are you looking forward to most about the Dorm Room Fund?

The best part about it is that I’m going to be with the most engaging people on campus. First of all, the investment team is a group of really, really smart people who I look up to and I want to learn from as much of possible. The other side of it is that the founders are probably the most enterprising people you can find in Philly. I want to be around them because it gets me motivated and inspires me.

What do you think you offer to the Dorm Room Fund?

Through Pennvention and Weiss Tech House, I’ve been exposed to the life cycle of startups. I know how that process works and I can bring that understanding and leverage it to help startups perform better in their early stages.

How does this relate to your future career plans?

Ultimately I want to become a founder of a tech company. I want to make something that is very impactful and improves the quality of life of others. I think being exposed to these high performing startups will really help me understand what I should be doing when I get to that stage.”

Lauren Reeder 

  • Wharton and Engineering sophomore
  • Computer Science, Statistics and Finance
  • Boise, Idaho

Tell us something interesting about yourself...

I’m an avid skier, and I love to hit the slopes whenever I have the chance. I’ve taken my skis all across the country and haven’t found a run that is too steep for me in a long time.

What got you interested in venture capital?

I was first interested in the startup side of the field. From there, my interest broadened into other projects and eventually that led to an even broader interest in venture capital and help others with their projects.

What experience do you have in the field?

Freshman year I joined a startup called Emerald Exam, which created an application that allowed students to type in class exams on their laptops. I stayed with it through sophomore year when it closed. This really broadened my awareness of both the startup and venture capital side of the field. Sophomore year I also joined the Innovation Fund here at Penn, which also provides grant funding to student startups.

What is one of your favorite startups?

Nest, which connects basic household devices such as your thermostat or smoke alarm to your smartphone. Their design is phenomenal and their devices fit seamlessly into your everyday needs.

What are you looking forward to most about the Dorm Room Fund?

It’s really awesome to see what students in Philly come up with and it’s really nice to help them achieve success. We see so many companies, both successful and unsuccessful, and learn so much from all of them. We have the experience to give these startups the proper advice and resources to make sure they succeed in their current venture.

What do you think you offer to the Dorm Room Fund?

After being involved with a startup myself and seeing so many businesses come through the Innovation Fund, I’ve been able to learn a lot about the process of building a company. This broad range of experiences will lend itself to being able to help other companies achieve success.

How does this relate to your future career plans?

Through the Dorm Room Fund, we get the opportunity to run our own Venture Capital fund, which is something that I find fascinating and would definitely be interested in as a future career. Beyond this, the experience that we gain from interacting with our portfolio companies would also be valuable if I were to start a venture of my own.

Tim Miller 

  • Wharton and Engineering sophomore
  • Finance and Material Science Engineering
  • Glen Rock, NJ

Tell us something interesting about yourself...

I come from a close-knit family. I have really supportive parents and brothers who are always there for me. We have traveled the world together, covering more than 30 countries and territories and over 25 of the United States. We just did a trip to Eastern Europe and traveled around Romania, Bulgaria, Serbia, Croatia and Hungary.

What got you interested in venture capital?

Last summer I interned at CB insights, a small data company based in New York founded by two Penn alums. I was basically in charge of tracking all the activity within the venture capital industry. I was able to look at all the cool different companies that were trying to solve different problems and I saw that this was an amazing industry, where people can help others build their ideas.

What experience do you have in the field?

I’ve worked at three different startups including CB insights, where I worked last summer. Two summers ago I worked at Melinger products, a small consumer products startup, also started by a Penn alum. And three summers ago I worked at Intelligent Concrete, a concrete research and development startup.

What is one of your favorite startups?

Unequal is a Philly area startup that makes Kevlar based inserts for sporting equipment. That’s something I’ve always been interested because I played three sports in high school and have seen the effects of concussions on people and have gotten concussions myself. With all the recent concerns about sports injuries, they are trying to solve those problems with lighter, more durable pads.

What are you looking forward to most about the Dorm Room Fund?

I’m excited about the learning experience— being able to deal with all of these Philly startups, learn from the entrepreneurs, find out why they started their businesses, and see what they are doing to identify their markets and grow their business. But I’m also excited about being able to help them, whether its providing resources or giving advice to help their companies along. Plus, there’s a great investment team that’s been assembled. Everyone has different experiences from different areas and I think that I can really learn from them.

What do you think you offer to the Dorm Room Fund?

I offer a perspective from a multitude of backgrounds. Sine I’m in Wharton and the School of Engineering, I understand the fusion of the tech side and business side of things. I believe my strengths are in company analysis and business development and so I think I can really help direct these startups.

How does this relate to your future career plans?

M&T gives me the ability to explore a multitude of options, and venture capital is one that I’m exploring. But beyond that, the Dorm Room Fund gives me the opportunity to learn so many things. There’s personal development, teamwork, strategy, and exposure to startups. It offers an opportunity to learn about so many different areas and I can decide where to go from there.

Matt Gibstein 

  • College junior
  • Science, Technology and Society, minoring in Consumer Psychology and Spanish
  • Miami, Florida

Tell us something interesting about yourself...

I spent the fall semester studying abroad in Barcelona where I took all of my classes in Spanish. It was super challenging, but incredibly rewarding and living in the city itself was fantastic.

What got you interested in venture capital?

I was fortunate enough to intern for Square and Uber, both of which are First Round Capital portfolio companies. That fact spurred me to reach out to their VP of Platform, and I ended up spending all of last school year interning at the firm. The experience I had was pretty amazing, and I was able to build an in-depth understanding about the platform and operational side of a VC firm. That being said, I was hoping to find an outlet to explore both that side of the business, while simultaneously learning about the investment environment, which is why I’m so excited about the Dorm Room Fund. Ultimately, I’d say it was my interest in tech that drew me to the DRF in the first place, but my experience at First Round that made me want to learn more.

What experience do you have in the field?

I’ve worked in technology retail at the Apple Store, technology journalism at the New York Times and also in operations & strategy roles at Square, Uber, First Round Capital, and Google. This summer I’ll be working at McKinsey’s Technology Group in Silicon Valley.

What is one of your favorite startups?

Airbnb is growing extremely quickly so they might not be classified as a startup anymore, but regardless, I love the work they’re doing. They’re pioneering the sharing economy/excess capacity space and it’s amazing how they’re providing people with cheaper places to stay while providing others with an additional source of revenue. From a consumer psychology standpoint, I think it’s fascinating how it’s enabling people to trust others in ways that they haven’t in the past. If you asked someone to rent out their home to a total stranger, five years ago, they’d be pretty skeptical. It’s truly revolutionizing the way we travel.

What are you looking forward to most about the Dorm Room Fund?

The Doom Room Fund presents a tremendous 360-degree learning opportunity. I’m extremely excited to learn from my fellow investment team members, hear from student entrepreneurs about the challenges they’re tackling in innovative capacities, and ultimately, gain a better understanding of venture capital from the investment side. I’m also really looking forward to working with portfolio companies, and hopefully providing them with non-traditional “value-adds.”

What do you think you offer to the Dorm Room Fund?

I'm optimistic that my diverse experiences in tech will allow me to bring value to the Dorm Room Fund. On one hand, I hope that I can provide the investment team with an interesting perspective after having the chance to work in both the Consumer and Enterprise spaces. I’m equally as eager to utilize said experiences to provide portfolio companies with sound advice, whether it be aiding with business development, ops, marketing, content strategy, etc.

How does this relate to your future career plans?

A year and a half ago, when I interned at Uber, I was around employee number 60. Today, a year and a half later, the company is over 600 employees strong. Things in technology can change on a dime, and I think it’s impossible to predict what the landscape will be like by the time I graduate. Who knows what companies will be looking to expand, and which ones will have shuttered by then? My future plans are most definitely in tech, but what exactly that looks like is [to be determined].

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