By Jon Yeow (WG’15)
Dana is an MBA student at Wharton with a passion for startups and venture capital. Dana is currently working with Maveron, a consumer-only venture firm based in Seattle and San Francisco. Prior to Wharton, Dana was active in digital health startups, first leading user acquisition and engagement at consumer health startup, HealthTap, and more recently, leading strategic partnership at startup accelerator, Rock Health. In her spare time, Dana is a member of the investment team on Dorm Room Fund and volunteers for Women 2.0 to promote female founders in technology.
So, tell us a bit about yourself and how you found yourself in VC investing?
I’ve always had an interest in technology startups and a deep respect for entrepreneurs who were bold enough to pursue their own ideas. While working for a healthcare startup in Palo Alto, I started volunteering for an organization called Women 2.0, which supports female founders in technology. My work with them helped me realized that I am more interested in enabling other founders than in being in an operational role myself. From there, I transitioned to Rock Health, an accelerator program (now full-service seed fund) that supports entrepreneurs in digital health, which further strengthened my conviction to pursue early-stage venture capital. Recently, while at Wharton, I’ve taken advantage of a few special opportunities to get hands-on experience with investing – joining the Dorm Room Fund, a student-run venture fund powered by First Round Capital, participating in a student-run angel investment group called Wharton Angels, and becoming a Maveron Fellow, which opened the door for my summer internship at Maveron. I credit these groups tremendously in helping me make the transition into venture capital and am grateful that my time at Wharton has provided those opportunities.
Tell us more about the Dorm Room Fund and how it can help founders at Wharton?
Dorm Room Fund is a student-run venture firm that invests in student-run companies. We focus on schools like Penn, Drexel, Temple, and others in the Philadelphia area but represent just one of three other Dorm Room Funds nationwide, in New York, the Bay Area, and Boston. Our team is a mix of graduate and undergraduate students and our mission is to inspire and support more careers in the startup industry.
What I love about Dorm Room Fund is that we are backing founders at a point when their companies would not be as appealing to traditional venture firms – either because they are still too early or because the attention of the founders is split between school and their startup. By providing a relatively small amount of capital, we can fill that gap in the market and help student-founders take their ideas from the dorm room to the market.
Even better, our resources don’t stop when we write a check. We like to support founders on campus, whether or not they’ve garnered funding from us. We like to get to know founders early and even open our doors to the public for office hours, where you can seek advice, insight or just a person to bounce ideas off of. For founders who join our portfolio, we provide access to an incredible network of industry veterans as advisors and mentors, we negotiate business development deals for the software and services that power their businesses, and we provide touch points to a strong network in media and PR.
To that end, if you are a founder and building a company at Wharton, we’d be excited to talk to you. You can find us at dormroomfund.com/philly.
We understand you volunteer with Women 2.0. Could you tell us a bit about how they support female founders in tech?
Women 2.0 was started in 2006 with the purpose of encouraging more women founders, investors, and leaders in technology. Today, it’s grown into an incredible force that uses content, community, and events to inspire and enable the next generation of innovators in technology.
There are many ways that Women 2.0 supports female founders in technology, but some of the most exciting include:
- Twice annual conferences, focused on exploring up-and-coming trends in innovation featuring the people and the stories behind them
- PITCH competitions to provide female-founded startups with less than $1M in seed funding the opportunity to get in front of leading investors for exposure and feedback
- Investor Hangouts where, twice-monthly, founders can establish connections and get pitch feedback from leading investors
- City Meetups in 20 cities worldwide, social events which promote the creation of new networks among everyone in tech (men and women alike)
- The Women 2.0 Blog, where founders, investors, and innovators share their stories, tips and tricks
Do you have any advice for aspiring women entrepreneurs at Wharton?
Go for it!!! Be smart about how and where you choose to interact with people in the industry, being conscious of any biases that may exist among others. Seek advice from founders who’ve been there before and who can share their tips and tricks on how to find a cofounder, recruit a team, fundraise, launch a product, manage relationships with suppliers, and more… Leverage your network as much as possible to get to the right people for your team, and heavily scrutinize who you want to work with, looking out for people who truly believe in your vision and who you can trust deeply to be by your side when you hit speed bumps along the way. And when you finally make it to the top, don’t forget the people who helped you get there and pay it forward to the aspiring women entrepreneurs that are hoping to follow in your tracks.