Why We’re Doubling Down on Dorm Room Fund

By Phin Barnes

Almost 7 years ago, we started an experiment based on a radical idea: Student investors — not traditional VCs — would have better insight into finding, backing, and supporting the best founders on campus. Armed with that hypothesis, First Round launched Dorm Room Fund providing a scrappy team of student investors on Philly campuses with the capital and support to invest in student entrepreneurs.

What started as an early check has grown into a movement.

DRF’s student investment teams in New York, Philadelphia, Boston, and the Bay Area have backed over 250 student startups from thousands of applications submitted by founders across the country. Today, those companies are valued at more than $1.5B, have been acquired by tech giants, and have raised hundreds of millions in follow-on funding. They are household names and industry pioneers: Brooklinen, Capella Space, Dagne Dover, RapidSOS, Shield AI, Bevi, and Blockstack, to name a few. Dorm Room Fund has become the go-to source of funding and the community of choice for entrepreneurial students building, investing, and making the leap from school to post-grad life.

Since the start, I’ve had the privilege of playing a hands-on role in supporting this ambitious, collaborative, and diverse community of student partners and founders alongside Rei Wang, our outgoing CEO who’s going on to #BeAFounder herself at The Grand. Our 200+ investment partners and alumni have dominated 30-under-30, operate and have founded some of the strongest tech startups, and gone on to investment roles at top-tier firms. To name a few examples:

Dorm Room Fund’s next chapter

As one of DRF’s current partners aptly put it, there has never been a better time to start, join, or fund a startup as a student. We agree. To find and support more students like Anjney, Ruby, Stephanie, Shohini, Courtney, Dan, and Nash — we’re excited to announce Dorm Room Fund III and to reconfirm DRF’s mission of backing the strongest student founders on campuses across the country.

To lead DRF in its next chapter, we’re thrilled to welcome Molly Fowler as Dorm Room Fund’s new CEO and Chauncey Hamilton as COO.

Dorm Room Fund CEO Molly Fowler and COO Chauncey Hamilton (Photography credit: Brandon Smith)

Molly Fowler joins the DRF family from Intersection (an Alphabet/Sidewalk Labs-backed urban tech company) and leadership roles on competitive political campaigns — politics’ version of startups — including LA Mayor Eric Garcetti’s. She knows what it takes to build and motivate large, distributed communities to achieve great things, and has the hustle to help people, ideas, and organizations grow. She’s deeply passionate about supporting and mentoring the DRF team, and will work with the DRF partners and alumni to shape DRF’s vision and strategic direction as it continues to scale as the premier on-campus venture fund. We’re especially excited to see Molly work with the DRF family to build out our alumni community, expand our national footprint, grow DRF’s programming and services for founders, and help the current team recruit and nurture an incredible, diverse class of 2019–2020. (Interested in applying to be a DRF partner? Email us at apply@dormroomfund.com!)

Chauncey Hamilton will be joining in the newly created role of COO. Chauncey brings an incredible breadth of institutional knowledge after spending the last five years as a Chief of Staff to my First Round partner Rob Hayes. She understands how to leverage First Round’s resources to support companies and how to activate the broader community to meet the needs of the founders Dorm Room Fund partners with. She has a wealth of knowledge on the investment process from sourcing to selecting to supporting and will work directly with the current DRF partners to scale their operations over the years to come.

We believe the future of Dorm Room Fund could not be brighter, and we’re excited about what’s to come. If you’re a student founder looking to get your idea off the ground, drop Dorm Room Fund a line and apply for funding here.

–Phin