Every few months, when Dorm Room Fund opens up new positions on the team, I get asked about my experience as a part of the fund by quite a few people. Rather than repeat the same response over and over, I thought I’d share my answers here, in a more public forum. If you don’t know what DRF is, you probably won’t get much out of this post, and won’t care much. But if you’re curious, you can read more about us on the website above.
For context, I joined DRF’s San Francisco investment team in late 2018, during my first semester as an undergrad at UC Berkeley. It was one of two organizations I joined during my time at Berkeley (the other being Cal Hacks), and I stayed on both teams until I left Berkeley in 2021, though I wasn’t always super active.
Dorm Room Fund is a relatively small team. There are far less than 100 people involved in the organization in each year, across the country. Despite the growth of the fund and our programs over time, DRF has remained about the same size. This means the teams attract some of the most interesting, talented, brilliant people in the country, and remain selective.
Being selective has its downside – namely that we miss many candidates who end up being great founders or investors – but the upside is that DRF is the single highest-caliber community of impressive people I’ve been a part of. (For what it’s worth: we aren’t so selective just because we like rejecting people. It’s physically difficult to operate a fund of our size with many more people on the team than we have today.)
There are lots of cool parts to the work we do at Dorm Room Fund, but for most people I’ve talked to, this community of brilliant, impressive, varied people from across the country is #1 or #2 on their list of reasons for why they like the group. We have MBAs and PhD candidates and undergraduate freshmen, from engineering to business to the humanities, working side by side to understand whatever problems founders happen to be attacking, and learning and working in that setting is fun and valuable. Beyond the work we do on the team, though, Dorm Room Fund is well connected into many corners of Silicon Valley, and I’ve found it helpful to have the community’s insight and experience behind me on many occasions.
What I just said is probably the best part of DRF, and my favorite part.
There are other pros as well:
- If you’re interested in venture, outside of DRF, it’s difficult for students to get exposure to what kinds of work founders are doing, hearing as many pitches and seeing as many business ideas as we do on the team.
- If you want to start a company, being on the other side of the table is instrumental to understanding how the industry works.
- The network and resources are deep, and you’ll get out of DRF exactly as much as you put into it. You can do the “bare minimum” and meet with founders and vote on investments, but DRF runs a half dozen different programs for investors and founders, publishes content on markets and startups, and recently started running an internal event series with founders and investors from around the venture world. If you dig into it, you can get an incredible amount of value out of it for your work and career.
Obviously, there are also some things you don’t get at DRF. For example, though investment partners decide which companies to invest in, you don’t get a deep understanding of how “venture deals” work. In “proper” venture funds, each deal terms are different and negotiated between the fund and the founders. Understanding the prevailing terms and consequences of these investments are (I think) important in venture, and given the way DRF currently works (a single fixed deal for every investment), you won’t get much exposure into a deal beyond a yes/no vote.
If you want to start a company in the next year, your time is also most likely better spent building the company than joining DRF. (Though if you do so, definitely come talk to us.)
Lastly, though it’s slightly off-topic, I want to add that Dorm Room Fund is exemplary of one specific way to enter Silicon Valley and venture capital, which is by finding your way into a network of young investors and founders. There are many other ways – from private equity or consulting, from being a founder, from wealth, and of course, from “crawling through the window”: by showing up to investors and founders where there are opportunities, and working for them harder than everyone else. I’ve seen many interesting, impressive people take all of these routes. So if you apply to join the team and we underestimate you, please keep going.
Dorm Room Fund is one of only two groups I really spent time in during my college years. I wasn’t so keen to fill up every hour of my life with work, and I found a lot of value and satisfaction from the two I joined. Dorm Room Fund is one of them, and I’m happy it was. DRF does a respectable job of keeping alumni in the loop, and the community spirit extends beyond the active members of the team – I still meet other DRFers who become friends and go on to do interesting work in venture or elsewhere.
At the end of the day, DRF is a college extracurricular activity (albeit one that can mean much, much more if you invest in it). It by itself isn’t going to make or break anything in your life. But if you’re the type of person who’s interested in DRF in the first place, it’s likely you’ll really enjoy being a part of this group.
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