“Dorm Room Fund” To Expand From Philly Roots, Go Nationwide

The New York Times profiles the “Dorm Room Fund,” a kind of junior venture capital effort that supplies small grants to entrepreneurial students and Penn and Drexel.

In September, First Round started the Dorm Room Fund, putting $500,000 in the hands of an 11-member investment team of college students from the University of Pennsylvania and Drexel University. The board has already considered some 200 student-led ventures in the Philadelphia area and selected six for investments averaging $20,000 apiece. The recipients include Firefly, a developer of co-browsing customer support software, and Dagne Dover, a handbag and accessories brand. And starting this spring, First Round is taking the Dorm Room Fund nationwide.

“When we launched in Philadelphia, we asked students to reach out to us if they wanted Dorm Room Fund to come to their cities or schools,” said CeCe Cheng, the fund’s director. “The New York universities had an overwhelming response.”

One benefit of the Dorm Room Fund? The grants it supplies are small enough that nobody is tempted to drop out of school—recipients continue their studies even while attempting to come up with the next big thing. In today’s either-or world, it’s nice to have venture capital with a backup plan.