We started Dorm Room Fund in 2012 to build an onramp for students to become entrepreneurs and investors while still in school.
Four years later, Dorm Room Fund is active at top schools across the country. We’ve invested in over 100 student-led companies and 95 of our investment team alumni have entered the startup industry as founders, operators, and investors. Nearly half of the Dorm Room Fund alumni who join top VC firms are women, which led us to realize we have an opportunity to help pave the way for more diverse investors and founders.
Supporting tomorrow’s talent today has always been part of our mission. The future workforce we’d like to see is one that is diverse and inclusive of talent from both genders, across all ethnicities, and drawn from a full range of backgrounds.
We know the lack of diversity in the startup industry isn’t due to a pipeline problem at the university level. Computer science has become the most popular major for women at Stanford and top universities graduate black and hispanic computer science and computer engineering students at twice the rate that leading technology companies hire them. Universities are doing their part to develop the diverse talent to fuel the future. But a significant gap still exists between college and the workplace and we believe Dorm Room Fund is uniquely positioned to impact the demographics of our industry by shortening the distance between the two.
This year, we sent the first ever Dorm Room Fund diversity survey to the investment team to begin to measure how we’re doing when it comes to diversity on our current team and how far we have to go.
Here’s a snapshot of what we found:
1. Dorm Room Fund is doing better than VC as an industry when it comes to diversity.
Dorm Room Fund’s investment team is 28% female, 44% White, 42% Asian, 4% Black/Latinx vs. Venture’s 7% female, 74% White, 23% Asian, 3% Black/Latinx.
2. Dorm Room Fund is doing worse than the top 5 undergraduate colleges for entrepreneurs when it comes to diversity.
Dorm Room Fund falls short of the top 5 colleges’ average which is 49% female, 41% White, 26% Asian, 23% Black/Latinx.
3. Male student partners say they are interested in becoming founders and VCs more often than female student partners.
When asked “Which of the following startup careers do you ideally want to pursue after graduation?” Male DRF partners selected VC nearly 3X as frequently as female DRF partners, and selected founder nearly 3X as frequently as female DRF partners.
4. The confidence gap still exists even among the best and brightest students.
When asked “How competent do you feel in comparison to your peers?” male DRF partners selected “much more competent” 3X as frequently as female DRF partners and “slightly more competent” 1.5X as frequently as female DRF partners.
5. The startup community feels more welcoming and inclusive to male student partners.
When asked “Do you feel welcomed and included by the startup community?” male partners selected “Always” nearly 2X more frequently than female DRF partners.
6. Nearly 100% of student partners admire a male startup leader the most.
When asked “Who is the one person in startups you admire most?” 98% of respondents chose a male (the most popular being Elon Musk). Only one respondent (a female DRF partner), wrote the name of a woman (Sheryl Sandberg) as a role model.
Here’s a full breakdown of our team’s demographics:
46 out of 49 partners on the team took this survey. We understand that this data isn’t 100% indicative of the entire team. We also realize this is a very small sample size. But we think these results are interesting and noteworthy nonetheless.
Here’s how Dorm Room Fund’s team diversity compares to the venture capital industry:
The 2016 CrunchBase Women in Venture Report found that 7% of partners at the top 100 firms are women. The same report says women hold 22% of the roles on the investment team at the associate, vice president, and principal levels. By this benchmark, Dorm Room Fund is doing better than VC as an industry when it comes to gender.
When it comes to race and ethnicity, Richard Kerby’s study on Who is a VC? from the 2016 NVCA Diversity Report found that 74% of partners are White, 23% Asian, 2% Black and approximately 1% Latino. By this benchmark, Dorm Room Fund is more representative than venture.
However, If we want our future workforce to be diverse and inclusive, we shouldn’t be benchmarking against what venture looks like today. Rather, we should measure ourselves against the most diverse and inclusive communities that represent the future of our workforce — general undergraduate populations.
Here’s how we compare to the top 5 undergraduate colleges for entrepreneurs — Stanford, UC Berkeley, MIT, Harvard, and U Penn:
By this benchmark, we’re behind.
If we are to further succeed at Dorm Room Fund’s mission of catalyzing careers in the startup industry, we need to make this opportunity accessible to all students regardless of race or gender or background. Meeting the standard in VC isn’t good enough, we want to surpass the higher and tougher benchmark and have our team be as diverse and inclusive as the universities where Dorm Room Fund is active.
In addition to learning about the demographic makeup of our team, we wanted to take it a step further and learn about how the varied backgrounds of our partners impact their experience as student entrepreneurs and in the technology and investing industries. So we also asked about aspirations and attitudes in our survey.
Considering the respondents were all current partners on the Dorm Room Fund investment team, and were all recruited, selected, and onboarded similarly, we weren’t expecting much divergence or disparity in these responses. We were wrong.
Due to our small sample size, we weren’t able to meaningfully break down the responses by race, but here are the findings we surfaced when examining the results by gender.
Male student partners say they are interested in becoming founders and VCs more often than female student partners.
The confidence gap still exists even among the best and brightest students.
The startup community feels more welcoming and inclusive to male student partners.
Nearly 100% of student partners admire a male startup leader the most.
So what’s next?
Measuring where we are when it comes to diversity is just the first step. We know we won’t be able to solve these challenges overnight, but we are committed to making progress today and tackling diversity from both a demographic and attitudinal standpoint. We’ve already made some headway.
Over 70% of Dorm Room Fund alumni have gone on to work in the tech ecosystem with over 65% choosing careers in the startup industry. Out of the 17 Dorm Room Fund alumni who have gone on to join top-flight VC firms, 47% are female and 6% are black. Many other alumni have started their own fund or startups.
We know we won’t be able to change the industry alone, so we’re asking for help. We’d love to hear from students, entrepreneurs, and investors everywhere, across industries, and from all backgrounds. Sign up here and tell us what you think we can do at the college level to foster more diversity and inclusion — and how we can do better together to create the startup industry we all want.
Thanks to the entire Dorm Room Fund and First Round team for their input and feedback on this report, and a very special thanks to the members of the diversity taskforce: Christy Motch, Henry Tsai, Joe Kahn, and Kelsey Bishop.