Harvard Experiment Fund, Backed by NEA, Joins Crowded Investor Field

1/31/12Follow @gthuang

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the fund is Tivli, a TV-in-the-cloud startup led by Harvard students Nick Krasney and Tuan Ho. The company has grown from two guys to a team of about eight people since September, Jones says.

Despite a fair amount of initial press coverage, several Boston-area angel investors and VCs I talked to had not heard much about the Experiment Fund. That raises questions of whether the program is seen as insular to Harvard or NEA, and how much impact it will really have on the overall startup ecosystem around Boston.

The Wall Street Journal reports that the fund (and Harvard) is looking to work with other VC firms—in particular, a Boston-based firm—to be a strong partner in mentoring local startups. The program is a bit unusual in that it is affiliated with a particular university, and its main backing is from a venture firm outside the area. Of course, plenty of universities have programs to support student entrepreneurs and connect them with early-stage investors; and VCs and angel investors are increasingly trying to build relationships with young entrepreneurs.

Local seed-stage accelerator programs like TechStars and MassChallenge, and incubators like Dogpatch Labs, have a base of support from local and national venture firms, but are not tied to a specific university. Nor are micro-VC and angel funds like NextView Ventures, Founder Collective, Project 11, Boston Seed Capital, or CommonAngels affiliated with particular schools.

“Overall I think the more seed funding in Boston, the better,” says Jeff Glass, a managing director at Bain Capital Ventures, which is not involved with the Experiment Fund. For its part, BCV just raised a new $600 million venture fund, its largest to date.

Gregory T. Huang is Xconomy's Deputy Editor, National IT Editor, and the Editor of Xconomy Boston. You can e-mail him at gthuang@xconomy.com or call him at 617-252-7323. Follow @gthuang

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