New Experiment Fund Launches

Seed-stage investment fund hopes to support new entrepreneurial ventures

The Experiment Fund, a new seed-stage investment fund, officially launched Friday with the hopes of providing budding entrepreneurs with support and capital to build their startups.

During the event, which took place in a packed Maxwell Dworkin lecture hall, the founders introduced the fund and explained the importance of having a strong entrepreneurial spirit on campus and the need for a more extensive support network to help students succeed.

Co-founder Patrick S. Chung ’96 said that the Experiment Fund will fill a void that has existed for many years at Harvard with “support, capital, and expertise that have not existed on this campus ever before.”

W. Hugo Van Vuuren ’07, also a co-founder of the fund, elaborated on the idea, saying that “the fund wants to be helpful” and support groups like HSA and HackHarvard.

In an email, Van Vuuren clarified the difference between the Experiment Fund and other sources of funding entrepreneurs may seek.

“We are not an incubator or a grant giving organization,” he wrote. “We ultimately invest and help them grow with seed capital, consistent guidance, and unparalleled access to experts.”

Harry Weller, the third co-founder of the fund and a general partner at the large global venture capital firm NEA, said that the purpose of the fund was to “take the very best company builders and expose them to the best innovators.”

But the launch was not only about those providing funding. Nicholas B. Krasney ’09 and Ho A. Tuan ’09, the creators of Tivli, also took the stage to demonstrate how funding and advising could help a small product develop and grow. Tivli, a real-time television service for the web, received funding from NEA and with it became a popular staple among Harvard students. It paved the way for the development of projects like the Experiment Fund.

When asked about what kind of projects the Experiment Fund would like to support, Tuan said that it is “interested in things that will fundamentally change industries.” He described individuals involved in such projects as “being crazy in a lot of ways.”

Yet Krasney also suggested that present-day entrepreneurs are not perceived by peers to be as unconventional as their predecessors.

“A few years ago, starting a company wasn’t as acceptable as it is today,” he said.

Dean of the School of Engineering and Applied Sciences Cherry A. Murray, who introduced the speakers, noted a possible benefit of the increased Cambridge-based support and funding. Referring to famous Harvard dropouts like Bill Gates and Mark E. Zuckerberg, she said that the Experiment Fund will allow students to pursue their business ventures and still “get a Harvard degree.”

According to Murray, the Experiment Fund and the venture capital firms associated with it would also benefit from being involved in the next big website, idea, or startup.

“It’s a win-win,” she said.

—Staff writer David W. Kaufman can be reached at davidkaufman@college.harvard.edu

—Staff writer Akua F. Abu can be reached at aabu@college.harvard.edu.

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