Dorm Room FundSamantha Smith has been chosen as one of the student VCs who will be investing in her peers.Many of today’s largest tech companies began on college campuses.
Google stemmed from a project two Stanford Ph.D students, Larry Page and Sergey Brin, were working on. Facebook began in Mark Zuckerberg’s Harvard dorm room. Snapchat, a popular new messaging app, also began on Stanford’s campus.
First Round Capital, an early stage venture firm that has backed companies like Fab, Path, One Kings Lane and Uber, is trying to find the next big dorm room company. It has created Dorm Room Fund, which selects a handful of driven students, gives them half-a-million dollars, and asks them to invest in their peers’ startups. The students will be investing about $20,000 in each startup over the next two years. When they graduate, they’ll find new students to replace them.
The first Dorm Room Fund group began in Pennsylvania, and those students have backed two startups so far.
Now Dorm Room Fund has found 11 students in schools across New York, from Columbia undergrads to NYU MBAs. Their task: To find the next Mark Zuckerberg.
The 11 students come from all sorts of backgrounds. They’ve built their own Google Glass-like products, interned for Facebook and Square, and started micro-finance firms abroad. Here’s who the are, and the college startups they have their eyes on.
Bio: After studying Philosophy at Swarthmore College, Alex spent four years as a customer experience and product manager at McMaster-Carr and then PetFlow.com. He is heavily involved in the New York food entrepreneurship world, having founded both yumspring and the Lean Food Startup community. Now at Columbia Business School, Alex is building the Columbia Food Lab, an accelerator for MBA-founded food startups. Though he spends most of his time thinking about food (who doesn't?), Alex is interested in all forms of entrepreneurship, from tech startups to search funds, and can be found at alexmginsberg.me or @alexmginsberg on twitter.
favourite Campus Startup: BuzzTheBar lets you order drinks before you get to the bar so they'll be there waiting when you arrive.
One NY entrepreneur I greatly admire: I admire ZocDoc's Cyrus Massoumi for building a tech company that will be solving a real life need for a very long time.
Something I've built: I'm in the process of building Lean Food Startup
Why DRF: I'm thrilled by the possibility of investing in peers whose companies will change the way I live; and selfishly, I want them to stay in New York after school so that we get all the new products before other cities.
Ricky Berrin is an MBA student at NYU who worked for The Fancy, admires Dennis Crowley, and thinks vending machines in cabs are cool.
Bio: Ricky is a second year MBA student at NYU where he is co-president of the NYU Entrepreneurs Network. He worked as an NYC corporate lawyer before leading up mobile healthcare projects in Ghana and Egypt. He is interested in tech entrepreneurship, social enterprise and venture capital. Previously @theFancy.
favourite Campus Startup: Taxi Treats, a vending machine inside a cab.
Something I've built: Salesbus.com, a way to sell what you love.
Why DRF: I love the idea of being able to help fellow student validate great ideas as they make the leap to becoming great entrepreneurs.
Bio: Taylor Francis, a junior at Princeton studying public policy, is the co-President of the Princeton Entrepreneurship Club, a 1,000+ member community of people interested in technology and startups. He started the Club's TigerTrek program, which brings students to visit entrepreneurs and investors in NYC and Silicon Valley. He has been an intern at Facebook and Square, and is working this coming summer at Coursera.
favourite campus startup: Discourse, a student project that seeks to map the world's knowledge
One NY entrepreneur I greatly admire: I admire the way Carter Cleveland, founder of Artsy, is doing the very hard and important work of bringing the art world into the 21st century.
Something I've built: TigerTrek program that brings 20 Princeton students to Silicon Valley over Fall Break each year, where they visit leading entrepreneurs and investors.
Why DRF: This is an exciting opportunity to empower students to take projects they are tinkering with to the next level -- this funding and encouragement can mean that students will take the next steps of turning their ideas into reality, and that will be the source of some truly impactful innovation.
Christopher Yan is a student at Columbia who has interned at Google. He has his eye on meta, a Columbia startup that's building a Google Glass-like product.
Bio: Chris is a sophomore studying Computer Science at Columbia University. He serves on the Applications Development Initiative board, hosting hackathons and building applications for his school. He also works to encourage entrepreneurship on campus as a member of the Columbia Venture Community. Chris is a former undergraduate researcher, intern at Google, and soon to be at Microsoft for a PM internship this summer.
favourite Campus Startup: meta, a pair of augmented reality glasses.
One NY entrepreneur I greatly admire: When Ryan Bubinski wasn't satisfied with just building a developer community at Columbia, he co-founded Codecademy to make programming accessible to everyone. That's awesome.
Something I've built: As part of the Application Development Initiative I helped make DevFest, a week-long workshop series and hackathon designed to teach fledgling developers and showcase Columbia's best hackers.
Why DRF: Students in the New York area are incredibly talented, and I'm honored to help them grow their startups and eager to learn from their passion.
Bio: An is a biomedical engineering PhD student at Columbia. As a professional student, she has collected bachelor's degrees from Penn in bioengineering and finance as well as master's degrees from Stanford in mechanical engineering and medicine. Since her start in entrepreneurship through the Weiss Tech House at Penn, she has pursued her passion for translating technologies from bench to bedside through working with the University City Science centre, New York City Investment Fund, New York City Tech Connect, and InSITE. In her spare time, you'll find her out riding her bike or taking her dog, Shadow, on new adventures.
favourite Campus Startup: Radiator Labs
One NY entrepreneur I greatly admire: Melinda Thomas. In the bioscience ecosystem, she has taken head on the challenge of bringing NYC into the same conversation as the Bostons and Bay Areas.
Something I've built: Palm Clinical Weblog. It was a Palm OS application for military medical students to record their clinical experiences. It won Best Student application from Palm in 2002.
Why DRF: I want to enable my classmates to pursue their passions and consider less traditional career paths.
Bio: Ali Hamed is a junior at Cornell University where he co-founded a student run co-working space called the PopShop, which is located just off the Ithaca campus. He is also a managing partner of a firm called CoVenture that builds software for equity in startups, and in the past Ali has done consulting for a government, international corporations and domestic ones.
favourite Campus Startup: SPLAT, a startup that turns your smartphone into a gaming console.
One NY Entrepreneur I admire: John Borthwick
Something I've built: I co-founded CoVenture where we have helped build 6 different companies.
Why DRF: DRF is going to be the biggest community builder of the NYC entrepreneurial community. The chance to bring together talent from universities across the greater New York area, learn from some of the brightest entrepreneurs, investors and peers in the city and the opportunity to help students I spend time in class with is an unprecedented opportunity.
Bio: Sam Slover is a graduate student at NYU's Interactive Telecommunications Program (ITP), where he works on technology projects at the intersection of data, design, and learning. He is the co-founder of Learn It Live, an online learning website that connects groups to experts that are not accessible locally. He's most passionate about creating new technologies and media that allow people to better learn about themselves and the world they live in, and hopefully make better decisions because of it. Previously, he worked on social entrepreneur initiatives with communities in Honduras and India, and launched a seed capital program at a micro-finance firm in Bolivia.
favourite Campus Startup: Alchematter, an online platform for documenting and sharing open source hardware projects.
One NY entrepreneur I admire: Although he is now on the investment side of the table, I most admire Chris Dixon for his thoughtful approach to big data products and how to make them into compelling businesses.
Something I've built: I built Learn It Live, an online learning website that connects groups to experts that are not accessible locally.
Why DRF: As a designer, I want my fellow design students to see that starting a business while in school is a very reasonable and possible option.
Bio: Kim is a born and bred Bostonian who fell in love with the early-stage startup game at the ripe old age of 16 - and hasn't looked back since. She has had the privilege to learn at companies like LocalResponse, Enstitute, Atlas Venture, and Onswipe. Kim is now studying Marketing and Computer Science at NYU, where she's running with her passion of connecting and empowering a community of builders as President of [email protected]. You can learn more about her at kimpham.org.
favourite campus startup: Branch, co-founded by [email protected] alum Hursh Agrawal.
One NY entrepreneur I admire: I'm a huge fan of Chris Muscarella of Kitchensurfing -- him and his team are building such a wonderfully unique and experiential marketplace that I appreciate as both an amateur chef and a startup enthusiast.
Something I've built: I'm shipping [email protected], NYC's largest student technology organisation, with the help of my executive board members: http://techatnyu.org/
Why DRF: Because I want to encourage students to ship and help fuel creation in New York City.
Bio: Samantha Smith is co-founder of Exponential Group; a consulting firm that works with companies looking to grow, change direction, hit new goals, or set up in the U.S. She's also the co-founder of Startup Booster, an initiative to build the entrepreneurship community in Hungary. Sam is a senior at NYU Gallatin where she designed a self-directed major in government, human nature, and innovation. She is the founder of the NYU Entrepreneurs Network and started her first company in brick-and-mortar retail in 2005.
favourite Campus Startup: Suneris Tech at NYU, the team is creating lifesaving medical solutions and getting them to the market as fast as possible.
One NY entrepreneur I greatly admire: Rachel Haot, NYC Chief Digital Officer. She's pushing government to keep pace with technology and working within a huge system to increase efficiency- everything I'm interested in doing.
Something I've built: NYU Entrepreneurs Network
Why DRF: We're making it easier and encouraging students that are following their interests and thinking outside the lines to continue doing so. It gives me a rush of energy to know that a classmate of mine who has a vision to grow their project into something bigger, actually can.
Bio: Raymond is a junior at Princeton studying computer science and sociology. On campus, he's involved with organisations like the Entrepreneurship Club, where he organizes student-led classes and community building initiatives, and works on websites and forums for various student groups. Previously, he was involved with robotics and organised several successful engineering teams.
favourite campus startup: Mapsaurus, who is building a new way to discover Android applications.
One NY Entrepreneur I admire: Yancey Strickler and Perry Chen of Kickstarter have done a great job of leading their company through growth while nurturing a valuable kind of creative culture.
Something I've built: Filer, a simple tool for receiving files using Dropbox.
Why DRF: Starting a company while in college is still a huge investment of time and energy. With the Dorm Room Fund, fellow students will find it much easier to spend a summer or a school year working on something they love.
Cole Diamond attends Columbia. He's created a social network for frats and created a Google Glass-like product, MyVu glasses.
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