Cafés, courtyards, corridors, coffee houses. We know that 70% of learning takes place outside the classroom. From impromptu discussions to passionate debates, opportunities to learn spring from within and surround a campus. In a more structured approach, an institute of higher learning can leverage corporate partnerships to extend its campus and strengthen its degree programs by fostering entrepreneurial learning opportunities for its students.
First Round Capital, a national startup venture capital fund, and Drexel University, Philadelphia, forged just such a partnership which resulted in the creation of a thriving technology hotbed—and a model to follow to produce successful startup companies, accomplished graduates, and a sustainable ecology system for the technology and business sectors in the region.
For an institute of higher learning, the opportunity to partner with a company to offer student-centric, hands-on entrepreneurial experience is a means to expand a campus beyond its formal borders, and to elevate students’ minds beyond the standard curriculum. In a win-win scenario for the business, the university, and the students, classroom theory is augmented by real-life experience, raising the bar of value for the university’s degree program—and creating a competitive advantage in its recruitment strategy.
In an effort to attract and eventually retain talent, First Round Capital focuses on college students—tapping into their endless supply of big ideas and boundless energies. FRC, in conjunction with The University of Pennsylvania and Drexel University, purposefully engages these students by offering invaluable entrepreneurial experience on both sides of the startup equation—the generation of ideas and the procurement of their funding.
The Dorm Room Fund is a student-run organization, financially backed by FRC, with initial working capital of $500,000 to invest in ventures founded by current students or recent graduates of a Philadelphia-based university. The Fund’s members are comprised of a wide range if degree students, spanning the fields of engineering, marketing, finance, literary arts, medicine, research, and the law. While First Round provides mentoring and advice, it is the students who review the funding proposals to determine the allocation of funds.
In addition to providing experience on the financial side of entrepreneurial ventures, First Round Capital also offers mentorship and office space to the students whose companies receive funding and are progressing to form their start-up companies. Each coveted startup space comes with advice and counsel as to the use of the young company’s initial investment and the company’s early-stage progression.
(Engaged Students + Inspirational Place) x Vision = A Community of Convergence
To inspire these students and to create a vibrant off-campus home, it became pivotal for First Round Capital to find just the right location—and create just the right office environment. Strategically set in close proximity to the campuses of Drexel University and the University of Pennsylvania, the FRC office is situated in the perfect spot in West Philadelphia—this specific geography enables First Round Capital to benefit from the fertile ground of students and ideas, and the location empowers the students to easily access entrepreneurial and experiential thinking and doing.
Additionally, the specific design of First Round Capital’s office space—safe, flexible and collaborative—directly enables FRC to bring together the big ideas and the funding to make them come alive. Most importantly, the connection between First Round Capital and Drexel University, and the location of the entrepreneurial space and its collaborative design, creates a community—a literal hotbed of technologically-minded individuals, student start-up companies and venture capitalists. This Community of Convergence pays dividends to the university, its students, and the regional business sector as a whole by creating a sustainable local eco system of technological knowledge, experience and invention—a community of innovation right in Philadelphia’s own backyard.