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Dorm Room Fund Boston Welcomes Two New Team Members

01/26/2015

Boston is welcoming students back from winter break, and Dorm Room Fund Boston is getting ready for a new semester of meeting and supporting the incredible student entrepreneurs in New England. To kick things off, we’re excited to introduce two new members to our investment team. Meet Eric and Kate:
DRF Eric SungEric Sung is a first year MBA student at Harvard Business School. In 2008, he co-founded Loku, a local discovery startup that was backed by 500 Startups. Eric operated the company for five years until it was acquired by Groupon in 2013. Prior to getting his MBA, Eric advised and consulted for several startups and also interned for a summer at Bain & Co. On campus, Eric is involved in the Entrepreneurship Club and Tech Club. In his free time, he enjoys playing basketball, playing piano, and following Texas football.
DRF Kate MurdockKate Murdock is a sophomore at Northeastern University studying International Business – Spanish, Finance and Computer Science. She is currently a Marketing Intern at New England Venture Capital Association and an Investment Analyst for IDEA: Northeastern’s Venture Accelerator. She co-directs the Entrepreneurship Immersion Program at Northeastern and is also researching effective global management with Professor and Author, Paula Caligiuri. Previously, she worked as the Brand and Product Manager at Bare Tree Media, a PayPal StartTank company. This past summer she traveled to Geneva, Switzerland to conduct research at the United Nations Institute of Disarmament Diplomacy. In her spare time, she dances with No Limits Dance Crew and is on the Powerlifting team. She is passionate about singing, playing piano, and theatre.

With clear passion for building and working with startups, Kate and Eric are two students that we’re confident will help grow what we’re doing and move toward our mission: to inspire and support more careers in the startup industry. We can’t wait for you to meet them.

Welcome to the family, Eric and Kate!

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Oncora Medical: Helping Doctors Fight Cancer with Data Analytics

01/23/2015

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“The front line of cancer care” is a phrase typically associated with a host of innovative treatments: better drugs, novel radiation therapies, and even gene therapy. But Oncora Medical, our newest portfolio company, is taking a dramatically different approach to fight cancer: it uses state-of-the-art computing techniques championed by the likes of Facebook, Google, and Netflix to help doctors make more data-driven decisions.

Deciding what treatments and what levels of dosage to treat patients with has traditionally been an onerous task. Because a single imprecise decision can have fatal consequences, multidisciplinary teams need to work weeks – if not months – to calculate by hand precise dosages suitable for each patient. Oncora is eager to eliminate this bottleneck with the aid of software, and is already working with multiple nationally renowned hospital systems to do just this.

If you’re a regular user of the Web, the premise behind Oncora’s technology will be familiar: just as Netflix predicts how much you’ll like a movie based on how you’ve rated other films, Oncora will use decades of data on cancer patients, treatments, and their outcomes to predict how a particular cancer treatment will affect a given patient – and can even determine the probability of complications several years after the initial procedure.

The beauty behind Oncora is that modern hospital systems already have all the pre-requisites: the “decades of data” mentioned is housed by these very hospital systems, where it lies largely untapped by software. In their solution, Oncora employs recently developed machine learning and computer vision techniques to analyze hundreds of patient and treatment variables and rigorously quantify their impact on patient outcome data. And because Oncora’s software does all of its heavy lifting in the cloud, oncologists aren’t bound to large computer workstations when they need to move around the hospital.

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Oncora Medical’s founders, David Lindsay and Chris Berlind, are excited to bring more data-driven decisions to fighting cancer – and are well equipped to do it. David, the CEO, is a Ph.D. and M.D. Candidate at University of Pennsylvania, and has numerous awards for his research on Parkinson’s Disease and bioinformatics. Chris, the CTO, is a Ph.D. Candidate at Georgia Tech, and has been published several times in the top machine learning journals. To help them penetrate the medical market, David and Chris have assembled a world-class advisory team including senior directors of oncology departments in the nation’s most prestigious hospitals as well as operating executives of digital health startups.

Dorm Room Fund feels a strong commitment to reducing the impact cancer has on society through creative technological solutions, and is proud to stand behind a venture that will substantially change the lives of cancer patients. More than anything, we admire the founders David and Chris for their knowledge, passion, and grit in such a demanding space as oncology, and are thrilled that they will be joining the DRF family. To find out more about Oncora, visit their website at www.oncoramedical.com or follow them @OncoraMed.

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Charitweet — making donating to charity as easy as tweeting

01/13/2015

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With Charitweet, donating is as simple as sending a tweet mentioning one of the dozens of charities on the platform. By helping donors empower their social networks, Charitweet can reduce costs and improve effectiveness of donation campaigns for non-profits.

Charitweet’s progress is clearly demonstrated with their recent success on #GivingTuesday, a day focused on giving following Black Friday and Cyber Monday. After less than a year of operation, the company saw completed donations from 33% percent of people that interacted with Charitweets sent from charity partners, which is remarkably high compared to traditional donation channels.

Charitweet is always looking for new ways to make donating easier. Recently, they launched a campaign to petition Apple to reconsider restrictions on processing donations within apps. The friction of transferring donors out of a native experience to a website or sms app is undoubtedly reducing the amount of money charities are receiving. You can support the petition by signing here.

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Since receiving funding from Dorm Room Fund, Charitweet has taken other innovative approaches to achieving their goal of putting more money in the pockets of non-profits. In a partnership with Fidelity Charitable, they set up MATCH campaigns on the platform. This was great news for small donors that want to further amplify their impact. Just last month, the 47 donors that contributed to the Martin Trust Center for MIT Entrepreneurship’s successful campaign to raise $1000, saw their donations turn into over $2000 going to the school.

There is a lot in store for Charitweet, so Dorm Room Fund couldn’t be more pleased to welcome them to the portfolio.

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Q&A with FiscalNote Co-Founder Tim Hwang

12/28/2014

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It’s been over a year since Dorm Room Fund NYC announced our investment in FiscalNote, a legislation-tracking startup founded by undergraduates. Since then, FiscalNote has quickly grown into Capitol Hill’s leading provider of cutting-edge legislative and regulatory analysis. Last month the company announced $7 million of Series A funding. Read on for DRF investment partner David Dworsky’s Q&A with co-founder, CEO and recent Princeton alum Tim Hwang to learn more about how he launched and led FiscalNote while remaining in school.

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How did you come up with the idea for FiscalNote while you were in school and what does the company look like today?

I was running a politics organization and one of the biggest problems we had was understanding how government was impacting our constituency. Following the latest updates in government legislation was a very difficult task at the time. I thought about it from a computational perspective and it seemed like such a simple thing to create what initially started off as a search engine for laws and regulations across the US. From that initial product, FiscalNote has become a whole suite of predictive analytics tools that make it a lot easier for people to understand what’s going on with government and legal data. Today we provide this broad analytics platform for customers around the world.

What was it like balancing your company with school work?

Prioritizing was the most important thing. For me, school work pretty much fell to the wayside as the company grew larger. I did try to plan my schoolwork such that I’d finish my thesis early but there’s only so much you can do. And if you’re going all in and really trying to focus on the company, prioritization is key.

What was the value of raising venture money while in school?

Up until raising our first round we were still proving out our thesis, and by raising money we were able to validate the concept. We were really young and scrappy at the time and I think getting venture funding allowed us to move to the next step in terms of validating our concept and knowing this was something we wanted to put our time into.

Can you talk a little bit about how you met met your co-founders, Jonathan Chen and Gerald Yao.

I had actually known my co-founders since elementary school. I also went to high school with them and we kept in touch through college. We had always been bouncing ideas off each other and this idea in particular was one that stuck. We tried to really test it out while in college and decided that we all wanted to continue working on this problem after graduation.

Do you have any advice for students who are trying to balance an entrepreneurial endeavor with school work?

I think the most important thing is to really take advantage of the opportunities that are on campus. Being in college, you can approach people in a very innocuous manner and ask them for advice. People are just more willing to engage with you. I think that type of environment lends itself really well to the type of customer interactions that you need to have as an early stage company. There’s a low barrier to entry in terms of getting to customers and talking with them as you build out your product.

At what point in college did you know that you wanted to start your own company after graduation?

I don’t think there was a definitive point when I decided I was definitely going to become an entrepreneur. It was more constant exposure to technology and the rapid innovations that were going on, and seeing our idea as a viable opportunity. Once I knew I had the team to really take advantage of that opportunity, we decided to run with it.

What are some of the disadvantages of being a student entrepreneur?

Well for one it takes up a lot of time and you have to forgo other responsibilities you might have at school. If you’re really serious about the venture, you’re going to end up putting school work on the backburner. The other disadvantage is inexperience. It’s important that you recognize that, and try to counterbalance it through advisors or specific strategic hires to get to a point where the inexperience is channeled into the right places. Because it can be an advantage sometimes, especially with respect to building technology. But when it comes to management, training, and the business side of things, inexperience gets to be a pretty big disadvantage that you have to learn to compensate for.

Can you talk about a major trend in Natural Language Processing (NLP) and how FiscalNote fits in?

One of the major trends of NLP is the idea of information retrieval in a very broad sense. We are trying to leverage technologies like entity extraction, optical character recognition (OCR), search queries and more for a variety of functionalities and use cases for our customers. When it comes to entity extraction, for example, we look at large pieces of legal data and have to be able to extract out people, concepts, or ideas for analytics. For queries and answers, we are trying to pioneer some pretty structured natural language searches that allow people and attorneys to be able to search our platform in a natural language manner — not just as a “bag of words” approach, but really understanding what the question is and trying to get the right answers in a very targeted manner. These new technologies are exciting because up until about the 70′s or 80′s NLP hadn’t seen much innovation, and now because of the lower cost of computing and experimentation, there’s been a lot more research going on in some of these fields.

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At Teachley, Games Are A Serious Subject

12/20/2014

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The NYC Dorm Room Fund team is excited to announce our investment in Teachley, a company that helps schools use app data to drive instruction. Teachley Analytics, a platform that gives educators actionable insight from children’s gameplay, is built from the founders’ years of cognitive science research at Columbia. The Teachley team taught in elementary schools before starting their PhDs at Columbia, where they started building educational apps to make early elementary learning more fun and effective. Teachley Analytics launched twelve weeks ago with Teachley’s award-winning math apps for K-5 students, including Addimal Adventure and Mt. Mutiplis, and is being used by 450 schools in 34 states.  Teachley’s math apps help students learn important math strategies and concepts through the use of engaging storylines and a meticulously crafted gaming experience.

The company’s founders, Kara Carpenter and Dana Pagar, are recent PhD graduates and co-founder, Rachael Labrecque, is a current PhD student in Cognitive Studies from Teachers College at Columbia. NYC has invested many resources into spurring commercialization out of universities, and Teachley is an excellent example of this translation.

Though still in its early stages, Teachley has already earned impressive accolades, including an Apple Design Award (2014) for Addimal Adventure and a Phase I and II grant from the Institute of Education Sciences, the primary research arm of the United States Department of Education. They even got a shout out from the White House in answering Obama’s call to create “educational software that’s as compelling as the best video game.” Teachley also reached the finals of NBC’s Education Nation: Innovation Challenge and SIIA’s Innovation Incubator.

Dorm Room Fund is impressed by Teachley’s bold vision of bringing together cognitive science, games, design, and analytics. While our team may have already learned addition and multiplication some time ago, we’d be lying if we didn’t admit to getting sucked into Teachley’s addictive games ourselves. We’re honored to open their seed round and thrilled to add not one but three female founders to the DRF NYC family.

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LifeGuides: Bringing Life to the World of Recruiting

12/02/2014

Across all of the companies we fund, and most startups, there’s one major challenge that still hasn’t been solved…recruiting. Startups are constantly doing their best to virtually strut their stuff, show off their culture, and fight for the top talent. Our newest portfolio company, LifeGuides, is going to help companies do just that. LifeGuides creates guides on what it’s like to work in a given function, at a given company.

On the other side of their platform are individuals looking for advice on what career path to take.  As someone trying to figure out your career, it’s often hard to find other individuals who have been there and done that to talk to.  LifeGuides is making this process much easier by creating guides by professionals who talk about their stories and share advice for people who are considering a given career path.

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By solving both of these problems with one platform that helps talent self-identify with specific cultures, companies, and individuals, LifeGuides is going to make it way easier for everyone to land in a role that they’ll be excited about. Startups and larger companies are very excited about this concept and the company is launching today with a number of public and venture backed companies signed up for the LifeGuides platform. The team has now created over 35 guides.

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Founder Phil Strazzulla is extremely excited to take part in the Dorm Room Fund community. “Dorm Room has given us resources to build our team, and a community of some of Boston’s smartest students to draw on for help and guidance,” he says. Phil comes from a background in the world of VC, spending two years with Bessemer Venture Partners before attending Harvard Business School. He’s a passionate and determined founder focused on changing the game of recruiting, and we’re excited to help him in his journey. Interested companies can email info@lifeguides.me to start creating guides on working at their company.  LifeGuides itself is also hiring!

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Donating our carry, or how we share success with the community

11/21/2014

People tend to ask me, “Why did you join Dorm Room Fund and put so much time into it? Do you get paid? Do you get equity in the startups?” The answer to that has always been the same — I don’t get paid, and I don’t get equity. I joined Dorm Room Fund because I love the mission of supporting student entrepreneurs and the college communities that help them succeed. More importantly, I joined and have stayed on the team because I love all of the talented and interesting student entrepreneurs that I’ve met and learned from along the way. People with varying skills — designers, hackers, business hustlers, etc. — and in myriad industries and niches. One of the great ways that we give back to these communities of entrepreneurs and support the next generation is through our tradition of giving the carry from our portfolio’s successes back to the schools that are at the heart of our mission.

When one of the startups in our portfolio exits, Dorm Room Fund sees a return based on our stake in that company. 80% of that return goes back to the LPs that seeded the fund. In traditional venture funds, the rest of the carry would go to the general partners who made the investment. In our case, we give that money to the schools that we’re a part of. The carry is evenly distributed across organizations that we choose to support at schools in each city.

We’re proud to announce the organizations that we’ve dedicated our carry to. Groups that are already helping turn students’ ideas into products and helping them gain entrepreneurial experiences, and also organizations that will be around in 3, 5, or 10 years when our companies start to see successful exits. Below is a list of each organization and why we chose to support them.

Dorm Room Fund Boston

MIT TechX

TechX is one of the most active student groups on campus — they run the annual 1,000-person hackathon HackMIT, the hardware hackathon MakeMIT, give thousands of dollars in grants to students to work on interesting projects, and collaborate on running MIT’s tech-focused spring career fair. We think that TechX is driving innovation at MIT, and look forward to contributing to their successful programs.

Northeastern University Center for Entrepreneurial Education

NUCEE is Northeastern’s umbrella institution which funds all of the entrepreneurial endeavors at Northeastern. One of the things that sets Northeastern entrepreneurial programs apart from others is that the two defining organizations, IDEA, Northeastern’s venture accelerator, and the Entrepreneurs Club, are student run. We’re working with NUCEE to allocate all carry to these student-run organizations, as we feel the money will account for maximum learning per dollar in the hands of students.

Boston University Entrepreneurship Club

One of Dorm Room Fund’s goals is to support and inspire careers in the start-up industry by helping students take their ideas from their dorm room into the market. We chose the Boston University Entrepreneurship Club as one of the recipients of the carry because of the overlap in the two organizations’ goals. E-Club acts as a networking organization that provides a variety of resources for students interested in entrepreneurship. With direct connections to virtually every other entrepreneurship and tech club on campus, E-Club provides a unique environment for students looking to engage in the community. Beyond networking, E-Club also holds project-based weekly meetings devoted to helping student entrepreneurs through their business development process. The club is essential in growing the entrepreneurial community at BU as well as in Boston, and we are closer to achieving our goal by supporting these efforts.

Boston College Entrepreneurship Program

The entrepreneurship program at Boston College is dedicated to inspiring students to follow their passions, learn from incredible mentors, and build great companies. Current programs like the Boston College Venture Competition and the award-winning TechTrek program are just the beginning of a growing organization of alumni and mentors at Boston College dedicated to supporting student entrepreneurs. Our pledge to support entrepreneurial organizations and initiatives like this at Boston College aligns directly with our goal to empower and inspire more students to start innovative companies in Boston.

Dorm Room Fund New York

Columbia — CORE

As the largest entrepreneurship organization at Columbia University, CORE works to help inspire and educate students across campus about launching startups and getting involved in the startup community. CORE organizes speaker events with notable founders and innovators and educates students through workshops, challenges, and entrepreneurial programs. CORE also works to help students find opportunities in the New York startup ecosystem through their jobs board, recruiting events, and through their partnership with the career center. CORE also holds regular events and series on social entrepreneurship, edutech, greentech, fintech, and inspiring women entrepreneurs and brings the forefront of entrepreneurship to campus at the annual #StartupColumbia Entrepreneurship Festival. We congratulate CORE on the success of the many initiatives just launched in the past year and look forward to supporting even more.

Cooper Union — Create@Cooper

Create@Cooper is an up and coming organization dedicated to empowering the students of The Cooper Union to create their best work. Members share skills, showcase projects, and immerse themselves in New York City’s hacker ecosystem. We admire Create@Cooper’s passion and innovation and appreciate the opportunity to support them in building a better tomorrow.

Cornell — PopShop

The POPSHOP is a co-working space founded by students run by students, and built for students. A lot like Dorm Room Fund. The POPSHOP serves as the center of activity for Cornell’s entrepreneurial ecosystem. In the middle of the night, or in the middle of the day you are bound to see multiple students coding new apps, drawing our wireframes or building pitch decks within the space. It’s a place we go to build new things, become inspired by those around us, and develop long-lasting friendships.

 Cornell Tech — Startup Projects

The Startup Projects are a unique part of the Cornell Tech experience, giving students the opportunity to found startup companies and create products of their own invention. The Startup Projects allow Cornell Tech students to embark on a natural startup experience as part of their education, while remaining full-time students. It’s hard to imagine a program more aligned with Dorm Room Fund’s mission of supporting full-time student entrepreneurs, and we’re thrilled in turn to be supporting the Startup Projects at Cornell Tech.

 NYU — NYU Entrepreneurial Institute

The NYUEI sits at the nexus of all entrepreneurial activities across NYU.  Charged with leading a university-wide initiative to accelerate the pace of technology commercialization and the launch of successful startups, the institute’s team of startup experts and thought leaders offers educational programming, events, resources, and funding to inspire, educate and connect entrepreneurs across NYU.  We’re excited to support NYUEI as it launches the Leslie Entrepreneurs Lab, a 5,900 sq foot facility located at the heart of NYU’s Washington Square campus to further embody their mission to be at the epicenter of all things NYU entrepreneurship.

 

Princeton — Entrepreneurship Club

The Princeton Entrepreneurship Club is dedicated towards strengthening the university’s community of entrepreneurs by providing students with resources and mentorship to help them succeed. E-Club runs hackathons, classes, elevator pitch and business plan competitions, and trips to New York and Silicon Valley startups, among a myriad of other events. As the campus’s largest and most active student entrepreneurship organization, we’re thrilled to partner with E-Club to help support the fast growing startup community at Princeton.

 

Dorm Room Fund Philadelphia

 

University of Pennsylvania — Wharton Founder’s Club

Wharton’s Founder’s Club is one of the primary entrepreneurial organizations on campus. The group is comprised of current founders, aspiring entrepreneurs, and tech enthusiasts who meet regularly to socialize, learn from each other’s experiences and give back to the Wharton community. We’re really excited about supporting Founder’s Club as a fellow student-organized group that encourages and enables students to pursue their entrepreneurial aspirations.

 

Dorm Room Fund San Francisco

Stanford and UC Berkeley — Kairos Society

The Kairos Society Northern California Chapter was founded in 2012 to bring together top student entrepreneurs and leaders from a variety of disciplines to create a unique local system helping students accelerate their startup pursuits and impact. The chapter now has over 40 students from both Stanford and UC Berkeley, the majority of which are working on high-impact startups, some working on nonprofits and leading on-campus groups, and others working on groundbreaking research. The Kairos Society has been a great benefit to both schools, providing a community capable of helping undergraduate entrepreneurs be successful and overcome many barriers in their impact-driven, startup journey.

 

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Bringing energy to those who need it most

11/10/2014

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One of Dorm Room Fund’s latest Boston investments isn’t the standard profile of a student startup. Most of the startups we see operate domestically and most address a niche close to home. Most startups don’t target those living on $2.00 a day in rural areas without access to electricity (living in “energy poverty’) as their primary market. As SolarRoute Founder Morgan Babbs argues, “The problems of last mile distribution are the greatest threat the base of the pyramid faces towards accessing the high quality products that we enjoy in the developed world. The worlds poorest face the least reliable access [to goods] and the highest cost of delivery.” SolarRoute seeks to address this where it will have the maximum impact in improving people’s lives; energy poverty.

At its core, SolarRoute is a distribution company for solar products in Nicaraguan communities living in energy and internet poverty (What Founder Morgan Babbs calls, “the last mile”).  Morgan noticed that in these communities, despite their high costs, cell phones have high penetration (112 cell subscriptions per 100 people across Nicaragua). However, those without electricity must travel to charge their phones.

The people in these communities jumped at the chance of purchasing a reliable solar powered lamp with cell charging capabilities, one which would pay for itself in under a year. There was a need for these products in Nicaraguan communities however there was virtually no distribution network to bring the products to them. Upon Morgan’s return to Nicaragua for the pilot of SolarRoute this past summer, she discovered a scalable distribution network.

Due to the pervasiveness of cellphones (and the fact that all of them are on pay as you go contracts), there are a couple of companies which criss-cross Nicaragua on a daily basis to bring sim cards, cell credit and cell phones to people spread throughout the country.  Since the realization that her cell charging solar products are the perfect compliment to cell phones and that these distributors traverse the entire country on a weekly basis, she has partnered with the top distributor to achieve a direct reach to over 30,000 people. This network is easily one of the penetrating and vast operations that exists in Central America – second maybe only to Coca-Cola’s.

Morgan currently has a Nicaraguan staff member managing operations as she is back at school for her senior year. In May, she will return to Nicaragua to scale the business. She currently juggles a double international relations and economics major, whilst also singing in the Amalgamates (Tufts’ oldest co-ed Acapella group) and directing the Empower Program for Social Entrepreneurship at Tufts. Morgan is building a meaningful business that, at its core, works to overcome the last mile distribution in emerging markets. She is creating financial, environmental, and livelihood returns for households in need– and building a scalable business. Dorm Room Fund is humbled and proud to support such a worthy endeavor (in a sought-after market at well!). Welcome Morgan and SolarRoute!

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How to Attract Talent to a Student Startup

10/23/2014

with Fred Wang, CTO of PageVamp

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PageVamp Team: Fred Wang (Left), Atulya Pandey (Center), Vincent Sanchez-Gomez (Right)

Attracting talent to a startup is an art regardless of which stage, but at student startups it can be even trickier. To gain actionable insight from a founder on the ground, I consulted our very own Fred Wang, the CTO of PageVamp:

Will: To give the readers some background could you explain exactly what PageVamp does?

Fred: PageVamp is the world’s easiest-to-use website builder. With just 1 click, you can instantly create a beautiful site for your clubs, small businesses, or even portfolios out of your Facebook Page. We started out of our dorm room at Penn, moved to NYC, and raised money from VCs to build the company.

Obviously with the growth that you’ve seen, scaling the company has been a priority from day one. How have you approached it?

We are agile in the way we scale and so far the rule of thumb has been to first figure out where the bottlenecks are and prioritize them based on company objectives. E.g. if the bottleneck affects your top line (i.e. revenue) and that is what your company focuses on, then that’s something you need to address immediately. This applies to everything from product development to customer support to building a team.

We’ve also been efficient on maintaining talent quality. We’re not afraid of bringing developers from overseas on board. If we don’t think someone’s performing, we believe it’s best to let him or her know and give him or her a chance to improve. We won’t waste anyone’s time; we’ll let anyone go and keep things professional. Our typical process of contracting first has allowed us to filter before bringing anyone on full time. Our belief is we do our best to bring everyone up to the highest standards, because the company is only as strong as its weakest link.

Can you walk me through your first hire?

This might sound controversial but our first hire was in fact offshore. My other co-founder Atulya had helped us bring on contractors from Nepal when we were running our web development agency before Pagevamp. We found out about them after Atulya did some extensive networking in Nepal and several people recommended them to us. After working together for over a year, and despite the time differences and geographic separation, we decided to hire them full time.

I believe most of our successful hires came in through working with them first, and then extending an offer later. Contracting is a relatively low-risk way to assess skills and ability to mesh with the team. There is so much truth in the mantra “hire slowly, fire quickly”.

Here’s a tip to startup job-seekers. One of our most successful intern hires came from a Facebook thread. My buddy Dave Fontenot is well connected in the “hacker” community. A high school kid read our post on Dave’s status about job opportunities and personally reached out to me through a Facebook message. He was hungry, ambitious, and had taken several online classes to learn programming. One of the first things he asked was for a project so that he can show his potential. We gave him a task, and he worked nights and weekends all the while preparing for finals and SAT’s. Needless to say, he was probably one of our best hires to-date.

What are some of the mistakes you’ve made along the way?

We’ve let people go in the past. The key takeaway we share is you always need to get collective agreement from all your team members before extending an offer, especially when the team is so small. It’s like introducing your girlfriend to your close friends or family. If anyone is in disagreement, there’s clearly something you’re not seeing.

Are there any resources you would suggest consulting before hiring (i.e. blogs, talent services, etc)?

Talent services have generally been no-go’s for us. Employee turnover in this industry is super high in general so headhunters are simply incentivized to pass along every candidate they have, regardless of fit and capability. I’ve interviewed many candidates from talent services and almost all of them fluffed up their resumes. TopTal is an exception in my experience (but keep that a secret).

Is there one massive takeaway you’d like to give readers?

Hire from within your team’s network, go beyond the interview to truly understand the person, and vet with your team.

Are you hiring right now?

We’re hiring 2 super-cool interns in the Fall for Sales/Business Development and Engineering. Email me here: fred@pagevamp.com!

Special Mention to Ray Cheng for Editing

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Gifts that “pop” — welcoming LovePop to the DRF community!

10/15/2014

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It’s not very often that you see a product that makes you go “wow” — but that’s exactly what I heard all around the room when LovePop co-founder Wombi Rose first brought a sample of LovePop’s cards to the Dorm Room Fund team — ships above and at water level, snow flakes, a car, and even a ferris wheel that spun. One of the Boston partners even purchased one on the spot! Dorm Room Fund is proud to welcome LovePop to its community, and we’re excited to support their Kickstarter as they reinvent the way we show affection to one another.

Greeting cards have grown almost extraneous to the act of gift-giving, they’re  there to hold money, sometimes tell a funny joke, or contain a personal note, but a greeting card is not necessarily needed to achieve these objectives. We’re excited to see LovePop attempt to change this by making the traditional vehicle of affection significant in itself as a gift and source of joy. With 7 billion greeting cards purchased every year, we think that there’s plenty of people that would be interested in these. And the team has proven that the cards do sell. This summer alone, Wombi and John sold over 4,000 cards exclusively through in-person sales at various markets and fairs around the northeast, and we’re excited to support their efforts to scale sales online. Between their business acumen and ability to hand-make these from concept to card, we fully believe that Wombi and John can achieve their vision.

In a time of text messages, e-cards, and snapchats, it’s amazing to see a physical product that brings joy and conveys genuine emotion. Beyond just being a great product, LovePop does good by providing jobs to families in Vietnam who locally craft and assemble the cards. From technically-sophisticated 3D design to handcrafted work, LovePop cards shows that great products can disrupt old industries. Dorm Room Fund is proud to support LovePop as they bring a more personal touch in a digital age.

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