Boston is a very special place with approximately 60+ colleges and universities, 300,000+ students, and a long history of significant companies started by students or student drop-outs from Boston area universities. If there is one thing everyone agrees on is the sheer wealth of student talent that comes from across the country to reside in this short few square mile radius region. Boston is proud of its students founding Microsoft, Facebook, Hubspot, Stripe, iRobot and so many others.
Over the last few years, Boston has seen a renaissance in startup activity, thanks to the efforts of players in the local startup ecosystem: entrepreneurs, angels, VCs, incubators, accelerators etc. But given how many universities and colleges we have in Boston, we should be seeing even more amazing student startups form and prosper than we have seen. We asked students from MIT, Harvard, BU, Northeastern, Tufts, BC, Babson etc, what would be most beneficial to students who were thinking about startups. And we consistently heard that in addition to continued mentorship, what student community here was really needing was a way to secure early initial investment to get their ideas launched into real world products. At General Catalyst, we were a bit surprised that in spite of the increase in the number of investors, students were having a hard time finding early support. But it is clear to us now that for student entrepreneurs, especially in Boston, finding the first few thousand dollars is even more challenging than raising the next $500k-1 million seed round, and while students hackers are able to turn their ideas into rough product drafts while still enrolled in school, most of them run out of the steam (read: dollars) needed to implement them in a form where they can be tested in the real world. Even the scrappiest of students need money to buy some IPADs for development, running design competitions, hiring part-time expert help, and paying rent during vacation periods. Seemingly trivial barriers can sometimes seem overwhelming for students with a full class load and attractive internship & job offers from other companies.
I can also personally empathize with that need. My first startup business plan (ed-tech for global higher education) died inside a power-point presentation because as a student I did not have the initial few thousand dollars it would have taken to develop a pilot to test in a university I had been working with. But my second startup (materials science) was able to get off the ground because I was able to secure $20k to pay back to my management consulting employer that had given me a signing bonus. A small investment changed my life. Given that history I really wanted to help bring to students what they were so clearly asking us to provide.
I am proud to announce today that my firm General Catalyst Partners has decided to fund and support RoughDraft.vc, a student partnership from across the Greater Boston area colleges, that will fund student startups at the earliest stages to turn students’ rough projects into products and companies. The investment committee is composed of dynamic students from several local colleges and universities, and these are highly networked, passionate and driven individuals that have already demonstrated an ability to catalyze startup ecosystems in their own college environments. This partnership will identify student entrepreneurs they would like to fund and will make the investment decisions. The investment will be made on simplest possible terms, and there will be no follow-on funding from RoughDraft.vc.
This team has already enlisted an amazing set of Advisors and a group of experienced engineering, design, business, sales/marketing, legal & other mentors to provide support to student entrepreneurs. I really believe that this group can catalyze the next generation of great Boston student startups to build products and grow their businesses regardless of their eventual geographical location. While I am proud to also serve on the investment committee, my primary role will be to guide, advise, and mentor these young investors, rather than influence the investment decisions.
Many of my partners at General Catalyst also started their first businesses when they were still in college, and as a firm, we have invested in many student startups that have been among some of our best investments, e.g. HubSpot, Stripe, WarbyParker, Visible Measures, Locu, etc. This is near and dear to our hearts. We are proud of our long association with the Boston area college/university eco-system, and we look forward to continuing our support of the next generation of student entrepreneurs, now also via RoughDraft.vc. If you are a student or a student team, working on a rough draft of a product, I hope you will reach out to the partnership at RoughDraft.vc, and find yourself a great first investor and partner.
Roughdraft.vc team photo below: