Xfund Takes on New Partners, Advisers

The Experiment Fund, a seed-stage venture capital firm started at Harvard, announced on Tuesday that it will form partnerships with Polaris Venture Partners, Accel Partners, and Breyer Capital.

“I hope that we can make a real difference in the entrepreneurial ecosystem as well as create some really outstanding companies that make a difference in people’s lives,” said Alan L. Crane ’86, a partner at Polaris.

Launched by School of Engineering and Applied Sciences Dean Cherry A. Murray in January, the Experiment Fund, also called the Xfund, is meant to foster entrepreneurship at Harvard and other colleges in the Boston area. Patrick S. Chung ’96, a partner at the Experiment Fund and former Crimson editorial chair, explained that while Harvard may prepare its students for a variety of professions, it often does not provide proper support for entrepreneurship.

"Every student who wants to start a company and gets sucked into Wall Street is a Bill Gates or Mark Zuckerberg who is lost forever," Chung said.

Jim Breyer, a partner at Accel and the founder of Breyer Capital, was unavailable for comment.

Since the Experiment Fund’s launch, Chung said, the organization has received about 750 business proposals. This interest from aspiring entrepreneurs was matched by investors.

"We were in the very privileged position to have interest from almost every top-tier investor out there," Chung said. "And we were in the very humbling position of getting to choose who to work with."

According to Chung, Breyer was chosen for his 2005 angel investment in Facebook, as well as his association with Accel Partners. Crane was picked because of his association with the venture capital firm Polaris, which Chung said was especially attractive because of its presence in the Boston area.

In addition to the new partners, the Experiment Fund has brought on several advisers, including former Harvard Law School professor John G. Palfrey ’94 and Facebook co-founder Andrew K. McCollum ’06.

“[Palfrey]’s been an amazing supporter to faculty and staff, which are very important to us,” Chung said. “With Andrew, we have one of the Facebook founders—he provides such an immediate role model to other Harvard students and Boston area-students.”

New advisers will also include startup adviser Hugo Liu and the current president of Harvard Student Agencies, Kirk W. Benson '13. Chung explained that the latter position, an ex officio post, is crucial for keeping the Experiment Fund connected to student life in Cambridge.

"Every single year, this campus and this area generates a totally new crop of amazing entrepreneurial talent," Chung said. "When that happens, we want someone in the Xfund who has her finger on the pulse, so we don't become a bunch of crusty old guys who are totally out of touch."

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