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Tufts Venture Fund will supply seed money to student startups

Posted by Scott Kirsner  December 6, 2013 08:00 AM

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Are we approaching the point where Boston will have more venture capitalists living in dorm rooms than in Wellesley?

Maybe not yet. But another student-run investing group is about to start putting money into campus startups, this time at Tufts University. The Tufts Venture Fund, formed last year by students including Eric Peckham and Alexandra Halbeck, has been out raising money from Tufts alumni with an aim of reaching $300,000. Faculty advisor James Barlow tells me that "they've been successful in securing $150,000 for certain, and they may actually be in the range of $250,000."

The fund "will probably launch next semester, and begin making investments pretty soon after," says Barlow, who runs the Entrepreneurial Leadership Program at Tufts' Gordon Institute. Investments will initially focus on currently-enrolled students, as opposed to recent graduates, and will max out around $25,000. The university will have a right to veto the fund's proposed investments a right "it hopes not to exercise," Barlow says.

The fund's objective, according to a description Tufts provided, is to "help the most promising founders launch strong and gain the early traction necessary to raise a larger seed round of financing from top angel or venture capital investors around the country." It will also help connect entrepreneurs with relevant mentors from the Tufts alumni network. Perhaps the best-known Tufts alum in the entrepreneurial realm is Pierre Omidyar, founder of eBay.

While the Tufts Venture Fund won't invest huge amounts of capital, Barlow says it could make the difference between a student deciding to chase her startup dream or accept a full-time job instead. "This kind of third-party validation of an idea can be pivotal, in terms of students committing to their idea. Being able to say, 'I have a venture started, I've raised some money, and I'm showing some traction' is a pretty good reason not to take the job at Google or wherever," says Barlow.

The student investing team will include a mix of undergrads, grad students, and Tufts alumni.

I've written in the past about two other new student-run investing groups: Dorm Room Fund and RoughDraft Ventures.

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Scott Kirsner was part of the team that launched Boston.com in 1995, and has been writing a column for the Globe since 2000. His work has also appeared in Wired, Fast Company, The New York Times, BusinessWeek, Newsweek, and Variety. Scott is also the author of the books "Fans, Friends & Followers" and "Inventing the Movies," was the editor of "The Convergence Guide: Life Sciences in New England," and was a contributor to "The Good City: Writers Explore 21st Century Boston." Scott also helps organize several local events on entrepreneurship, including the Nantucket Conference and Future Forward. Here's some background on how Scott decides what to cover, and how to pitch him a story idea.

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