Part I: A Gen Z’s Journey to VC
“There’s no one path to VC” was my least favorite phrase when trying to enter venture capital. Why wasn’t there just a master playbook of how to be an investor? Unfortunately I have to agree with the above sentiment, but I share my journey to VC and role as an investment partner for Dorm Room Fund with the hope that it will illustrate one path to becoming a venture capitalist.
Since my journey to VC is nowhere near complete, I am excited to start the “Journey to VC” series tracking my growth as a student venture capitalist.
Let’s quickly pretend we’re in “Back to the Future” and can return to my time in high school (wow that feels like ages ago). In 11th grade, I joined the startup accelerator Founders Bootcamp, focused on supporting the world’s youngest entrepreneurs, and simultaneously began submitting my craziest ideas to some national innovation competitions. Though all of these experiences taught me the fundamentals of entrepreneurship and piqued my interest in being a future founder, I continued to follow a path of research until my sophomore year at Northeastern University.
Up to this point, I had always pictured myself pursuing a Ph.D. Don’t get me wrong, I was still incredibly fascinated by entrepreneurship (shoutout to the Tuesday Speaker series at Northeastern’s entrepreneurship club), but I had been perfectly happy observing from the sidelines. When looking for my first professionally focused internship, I got a glimpse of venture capital positions and was immediately captivated. What I didn’t know at the time was that many of these positions valued intellect or technical expertise, but also prioritized interdisciplinary work, soft skills, and grit. At the end of the day, I boiled venture capital down to one question: How can you use your experiences to source, support and evaluate startups?
By junior year, I applied to a dozen venture capital internships and fellowships (including DRF). I got rejected from every opportunity and only received one interview. As many of you probably know, fellowship applications can be extremely time intensive and emotionally taxing. Instead of resigning in defeat, this was where my journey to VC truly began.
In the summer of 2020, I set a goal to learn as much as possible about startups, venture capital and entrepreneurship. I began working as an electrical engineer at a defense technology startup in The Engine by MIT, which exposed me to the way early stage startups operate. My educational journey continued by joining clubs in the fall semester like The Huntington Angels Network, Generate, TAMID. I even founded a newsletter called StartOP which featured educational content and early-stage startups in New England.
One year later, I gave Dorm Room Fund another try. After rounds of questions to answers about what I built in the past or the types of skills I offered, I proudly submitted my application on Sept. 29 at 8:03 p.m. Little did I know, this was only the first step in an extremely detailed and well thought out application process.
On Oct. 7, I received my first interview request with Ivan Zhao on the Boston team. This may have been one of the most enjoyable interviews I have ever done as we spent almost the entire time discussing coffee shops and miso cookie recipes.
On Oct. 10, I found out I had advanced to the second round and got the opportunity to interview with Sarah Moseson, who later became my buddy throughout the onboarding process. Though Sarah and I had different backgrounds, I learned the importance of drawing connections with others who have different experiences and how to value their perspective.
On Oct. 14, I got invited to Superday which involved a 1:1 meeting with DRF’s CEO Molly Fowler and three group interviews with different members of the Boston team. I had initially expected to be grilled on my knowledge of VC and startups during my interview with Molly, but could not have been more off base. Instead, Molly wanted to learn about what aspects of entrepreneurship at universities I found dysfunctional and to think critically about how I could solve these issues. My interview with Molly helped me develop a new perspective on finding my fit in VC and how I could make an impact in the Boston community.
On Oct. 19, the interview process finally came to a close and I got a call from the Boston team’s managing partner Neil Bhammar about my acceptance.
Though the official application process for DRF only took a couple of weeks, my journey to DRF was really years in the making. It is often hard to recognize how actions in the present may impact your future, but I am proud to have found my own path to VC and hope everyone can glean some insight from my journey.
Alex Marley, an investment partner on the Boston team, shares the first piece in his series about landing a role at Dorm Room Fund and breaking into the student venture capital community.