My journey to DRF, from Berkeley
Content associate Kevin Wu shares his entrepreneurial experiences.
Though I came to UC Berkeley aware of the vast entrepreneurial ecosystem, I wasn’t prepared to immerse myself in the culture. With formative experiences managing my high school’s academic support program, I hoped to champion access to quality education as an administrator and policymaker.
This aspiration led me to join Emerson Collective (Laurene Powell Jobs’ family office) on the education technology team with now DRF partner Nika, partnering with mission-driven startups tackling problems from K-12 schools to the future of work. While I initially joined a portfolio support role and enjoyed meeting superintendents, principals, and other end-customers, I gravitated towards founders who imagined how technology could revolutionize the experience for students, parents, and teachers across the United States. The team’s willingness to help me “stretch” and assume responsibilities for the first time allowed me to start pitching as an investor. I knew almost nothing about venture capital, but a genuine curiosity for EdTech and the mentorship of senior investors helped me find a voice in company meetings. I soon realized that much of my success as a venture investor was simply having a prepared mind and learning to ask the right questions at the right time.
Thus, I sought to further immerse myself in communities building startups that disrupted education and other high-impact sectors, and to understand the drivers that enabled them to succeed. I spent a semester with the team at Berkeley StEP, an on-campus launchpad for new student ventures. I not only worked with founders from business and technical backgrounds, but also with those from law, Ph.D., and public policy eager to improve society via entrepreneurship. Nevertheless, I still yearned for an opportunity to dive into the nuts and bolts of traditional venture investing. Having shared these goals with my friends, I serendipitously noticed an organization called EVCA seeking its first cohort of undergraduate fellows. After incessant cold emailing, I was fortunate to meet Adam, the founder, who welcomed me into the cohort — only later to learn that I had joined a program intended originally for Stanford students only. I immersed myself in the community and knew how impactful each new relationship could have on my growth and development. After my fellowship, I volunteered to serve as EVCA’s Chief of Staff, supporting our industry vertical communities, geographic chapters, and external partners as a “utility player.” Along the way, I’ve met dozens of venture investors, who’ve not only helped me build a skillset and dive deep into new spaces but have become invaluable mentors who have guided me every step of my journey thus far.
These efforts led to an internship at Signia Venture Partners, where I worked alongside former DRF partner Davey. I’m grateful to him and the Signia partnership — Sunny, Linus, Rick, and Ed — for giving me a chance as a sophomore to stretch into a real investing role while learning under their years of experience investing across consumer and enterprise. Within a few months on the job, I was building independent relationships with founders, identifing needle-moving issues in diligence, and supporting companies post-investment. These learnings ultimately led me to champion investments in gaming communities (555 Comic), find pain points in the collaboration tools space (Spot), and deliberate delivery marketplaces in Fast Company.
Having seen the process of finding product-market fit, I was curious about how these consumer platforms scaled and sought out a role in growth-stage investing at The Raine Group. At Raine, I helped invest in companies building enabling technologies for the consumer internet, such as PubNub, and developed an understanding of the challenges companies faced as they worked to become market leaders. The experience provided me with an analytical toolkit and exposure to the legal and financial complexities of later-stage investing, but I hoped to spend more of my day-to-day engaging directly with founders and hearing their stories. Thus after graduation, I’m continuing my journey with growth-stage companies as an investor at Spectrum Equity in San Francisco, focused on building relationships with technology entrepreneurs to improve the lives of consumers.
I joined Dorm Room Fund my senior year to immerse myself in a nationwide community of driven student investors, founders, and operators. With DRF, I’ve not only been fortunate to meet with mission-driven education startups like Aktiv Learning (read more here), but also been able to explore exciting new spaces in healthcare like Ash (more here). If you’re a student like me, who’s energized every morning by solving problems with an entrepreneurial lens, we hope you’ll join our tribe!
Written by DRF content team member, Kevin Wu. Reach him at firstname.lastname@example.org. More updates on our Twitter, website, and newsletter. Founders, apply for an investment from us. 🚀
This article first appeared on the DRF blog.