Reach out to a peer. Chat over coffee. Pitch your idea. Get a decision within two days.
Recently, a group of Penn students, along with a few members from Columbia University in New York and Carnegie Mellon University in Pittsburgh, became a part of the New York City team for venture firm General Catalyst’s student investment program, Rough Draft Ventures (RDV). This past semester, RDV invested in over 15 companies, though it’s not clear how many of them were from Penn.
Rough Draft Ventures, which initially launched the Boston area where General Catalyst is based, supports student entrepreneurs through investments of up to $25,000, along with networking opportunities and mentorship in fundraising, press and product launch.
Reggie James, a current senior at the Wharton School of Business, is one of the campus ambassadors for RDV at the University of Pennsylvania. Because his team members range from undergraduate to graduate-level students with backgrounds ranging from sociology and East Asian Studies to biomedical engineering and computer science, he said that he appreciates learning from his team.
“Being a part of the RDV community opened me up to how to build community through density and relevancy, and I was thrilled to help expand that mission,” he wrote in an email.
Together with students from other universities, he and his team discuss whether interested companies are a good fit for RDV after a preliminary discussion with one of the campus ambassadors. If so, the startup team is given the opportunity to pitch its idea at General Catalyst’s New York office in front of the entire student team for a final decision.
Penn students Ashley Kang and Ross Mechanic are the two other Philly members of the New York team.
Natalie Bartlett, a General Catalyst associate tasked with supporting RDV, said she hopes to further support student founders at every stage of the process. When asked about First Round Capital’s Dorm Room Fund and other student entrepreneurship programs, she wrote in an email, “We have built relationships with these programs through sharing best practices, co-hosting events and rallying a shared voice across content channels to encourage student entrepreneurship.”
One RDV portfolio startup of note is Workflow, the startup cofounded by South Jersey native and former Thiel Fellow Conrad Kramer. Also, Penn undergrad Rohan Shah won a $25,000 Rough Draft Ventures investment in his company Slice Capital at the Forbes Under 30 Summit last October.
RDV encourages any student entrepreneur from Philly interested in becoming a part of the RDV community to reach out to one of the many campus ambassadors at Penn for a coffee chat. Just bring your rough draft!
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