When NYU Stories asked to interview marketing and information systems major Kim Pham (pictured second from right in the photo above) for a series on student internships this spring, she upped the ante, offering instead to talk about her role as a founding partner of Dorm Room Fund NYC, a student-run venture firm that invests in fellow student entrepreneurs.
Since then, she’s graduated from Stern and landed another job in venture capital—as head of platform at Frontline Ventures in Dublin. She’ll make her big move across the pond at the end of June—but first, here are Pham’s reflections on startup life and how her work during her student years prepared her for a career in venture capital.
What is Dorm Room Fund?
Dorm Room Fund is a venture fund run by students investing in student-run companies. We are excited by fueling student creation in New York City, and invest about $20,000 to technology companies. Currently, our partnership is represented by students from NYU, Columbia, NYU ITP, Cornell, Princeton, and Cooper Union. We hope to support students of all disciplines and areas of study—designers, developers, scientists, business students, and so on.
Describe a typical day on the job:
It's crazy—no two days were the same! One day I was hanging out with the partnership to discuss organizing events on campus, and the next I was in an East Village coffee shop meeting with student entrepreneurs. I loved the "job" because it was dynamic and allowed me to meet with incredibly smart students and founders.
What was the coolest part of working there?
It's really been a wonderful experience working with the other partners—they're this incredible batch of students across NYC schools, and I couldn't be more humbled and honored to be included in the group. Many of them have also grown to become some of my best friends, and it's great to know that the next generation of Dorm Room Fund partners are even brighter. There is a culture of continuity and quality in place, and I'm blessed to have been a part of the founding moment.
Most valuable lesson learned?
There are a lot of business specifics that I've learned by being exposed to all of these student companies—like what an enterprise software sales cycle looks like, the challenges for ed-tech companies when selling to charter schools, the manufacturing process behind prototyping hardware products, and so on. But on a higher level, the most valuable lesson I've learned as a Dorm Room Fund partner is how to ask good questions. Sometimes it's not always about having the answer, but rather understanding the thought process and questions needed to arrive at that answer.
Any celebrity sightings?
I'm not sure if they're "celebrities" for non-Internet people, but I've had the chance to meet/see Jack Dorsey (co-founder of Twitter) and Drew Houston (CEO of Dropbox). Kinda nerdy, but definitely cool for me!
Any advice for other students heading down this career path?
Don't ever be afraid of the cold email (or even better, the warm introduction). Just because a company doesn't list a job on their website doesn't mean that they don't have the potential to hire. Do your research, find the right contact, and show them that you're passionate about their product—that will speak loads more than a boring application amidst a mass of other cover letters and resumes. If a door isn't open, make your own!