After years of entrepreneurship, I have recently found myself at the other end of the table. Although I can’t help but smirk at the irony of the 180 degree pivot, I am enormously grateful for the opportunity. See, the only way to learn how to build a great company is to step into the shoes of the investor. This is exactly what Dorm Room Fund allows me to do: to learn first hand the qualities of great companies, and, more importantly, the qualities of not-so-great companies.
So yes, I cannot express how incredibly grateful and honored I am to be a part of Dorm Room Fund. Given that students are much more deeply rooted in the network of their own schools than outside investors are, First Round Capital’s Dorm Room Fund initiative
– to entrust 11 students with half-a-million-dollars to invest in peers’ startups – is highly auspicious. Given the success of companies like Dropbox, Facebook and Google, all fleshed-out while their respective cofounders were enrolled as students, it is really surprising that few other venture capital firms have such programs. Hats off to First Round Capital for their boldness and foresight.
And so far, the experience has been terrific. All the other investment team members are incredibly driven, well-spoken and highly experienced in the entrepreneurial realm. Working with my peers on the investment team has reminded me the importance of soft-skills. For the first 18 years of my life, I was indoctrinated into believing that numbers and test scores should be prized over socialization, but this is not the case.
At the end of the day, an unlikeable cofounder just won’t get investor capital. For this reason, I have begun to lament the exceedingly performance-driven culture in American public education. The only way to maximize the future success of our future leaders is to encourage them to progress as human beings – and to pursue their passions. Rote learning isn’t sustainable, but passion and personability are lifelong traits.
I’ve also begun to realize the indispensable importance of finance in the business sector. Although recently the Occupy Movements has given finance a bad name, debt capital markets are imperative to the economic health of America. Without the capital that startups need to succeed, America would certainly not be the economic powerhouse it is.
Our tolerance for failure and risk is our differentiating factor. Anecdotally, I have heard that in China, once your business fails, you are through. But in America, the end of your business can mean just about anything – perhaps, you will pivot and reshape the business model like Fab and then become successful. Or, perhaps you will create an entirely new company with investor money. The point is, our ability to tolerate failure and our access to debt capital markets are what makes the United States the epicenter of innovation.