Five years ago Peter Boyce II started Harvard’s first accelerator program, HackHarvard, and the university’s first venture fund, Harvard College Venture Partners.
Described by his current partner Nitesh Banta, as an “amazing source to bring students together in the Boston community,” Peter served as the Co-Founder and President of both organizations.
Fast forward two years to when Nitesh, an investor at General Catalyst Partners, met Peter and the firm recognized the enormous need for a community supporting student entrepreneurs.
The two joined forces in December 2013, and Rough Draft Ventures was born.
Rough Draft VC is a student-run venture capital fund specifically for student founders.
“It needs to be students. This wasn’t going to be a program or organization for any other category of entrepreneur,” Nitesh shared on the decision to keep students in charge.
Rough Draft VC is currently run by 12 student team members who have backed more than 70 founders for 32 investments.
Having both been founders during their time at Harvard – Nitesh founded Summer Workation, a resource for teachers to find summer jobs – the need for student support deeply resonates with them.
“Entrepreneurship can be a very lonely sport, especially for a student on campus. You may or may not have a lot of friends who are working on solving the same issues,” Nitesh explained.
Rough Draft VC invests between $10,000 and $25,000 in each portfolio company. Despite being their first investment, it’s quickly become clear that the students value the community far more than the capital.
Only two years in, the Rough Draft VC network encompasses over 300,000 students across more than 60 universities. Their reach is quickly expanding.
Whether they’re asking a fellow founder about how to apply to an accelerator or seeking advice on how to streamline the fundraising process, students take advantage of a growing Slack group to learn from each others experiences. The Rough Draft VC network also convenes for community dinners.
Perhaps most importantly, Rough Draft VC is adamant about cultivating and fostering a community that welcomes all universities, not just startup hubs like Stanford and MIT.
In addition to the connections being made with other students, mentors, and startups, Rough Draft VC seeks to be the one-stop shop for young founders.
“It doesn’t matter if someone in your family is an entrepreneur, or you have a great career resource center. We’re democratizing this information and providing access to it,” Peter explained.
Most recently, they published the Student Founder Handbook, which highlights articles, blogs, books and newsletters that address questions on each stage of the growth process.
Featuring work from the likes of The First Round Review, Andreessen Horowitz’s Benedict Evans, and Fred Wilson of Union Square Ventures, the handbook is a highly valuable resource for all founders.
The team is also helping students intelligently manage their capital and time. The Student Founder Starter Kit provides discounted partnerships with over 20 businesses like Stripe, Hubspot, and Zenpayroll.
Working with student founders often reminds me of the difference between watching college level and professional athletes. The risk for 19 and 20-year-old’s is different; With little to lose, they put it all on the line.
“There is a naivete that inspires you to think about things in totally different ways,” Nitesh explained.
“You have a dining hall, classmates as co-founders, professors as advisors. You have the ability to think of the world as your oyster,” Peter elaborated.
Nitesh, Peter, and the General Catalyst team are deeply intrigued by the breadth of today’s student entrepreneurs.
Peter describes them as hyper-involved; “The 110% key instigators on their campuses,” he affirmed.
The description, we all agreed, hardly does them justice.
Among the students who worked on Rough Draft VC’s team this year, one is joining David Tisch’s BoxGroup, another is starting at Square, and a third is joining the marketing team at Handy. You can learn where the other six are heading in the team’s blog post.
The most telling indicator of Rough Draft VC’s success is the emphasis on the student journey above all else. Having done it themselves and thriving on the power of “coffee and good people,” it’s undeniable that Peter and Nitesh are the right leaders for the job.
To learn more about their journey running Rough Draft VC, as well as their personal investments and experiences as founders tune into their episode of 33founders and follow Rough Draft VC on Twitter here.
Here’s a glimpse of what we discuss:
- The birth of Rough Draft VC
- Why the fund is run by students for students
- What Peter and Nitesh were like in college, including Peter’s cold emails to Chris Sacca
- The one piece of entrepreneurial advice they disagree with
- Personal advice to their 35-year-old selves