Founders of Harvard Experiment Fund Talk Goals, Strategy, & Zip Codes

2/2/12Follow @gthuang

Don’t know about you, but I’m less interested in Facebook’s IPO than I am in the efforts of people trying to find the next Facebook out of Boston/Cambridge. One such effort is the new Experiment Fund, based at Harvard University, which I wrote about earlier this week.

Turns out there’s more to the latest seed-stage fund in Boston than initially meets the eye. I had a chance to speak with the Experiment Fund’s co-founders, Hugo Van Vuuren of Harvard and Patrick Chung, a partner at Silicon Valley-based New Enterprise Associates (not that Patrick Chung, that Patrick Chung).

They clarified the goals of the new fund and provided some more context around how it plans to distinguish itself from other similar efforts. I’ve also talked with a number of other early-stage investors around town and have gotten a better sense of how the Experiment Fund is being received locally (more on that below).

First, some mechanics of the fund, which has been in the works for about two years. Harvard has no financial stake and will have no say in the fund’s investment decisions, but it has provided support and office space, Van Vuuren says. He declined to specify the projected size of the fund, but he said it plans to make four to six new investments over the next two years, each in roughly the $100,000 to $250,000 range.

The Experiment Fund has already invested in four companies: Rock Health (see my colleague Wade’s stories here and here), Omada Health, Punch Media, and Tivli. Interestingly, only Tivli is based in the Boston area. Rock Health and Omada are in San Francisco, and Punch Media is in the DC area. They all were started by Harvard students—the key ingredient for now—but the fund intends to invest in teams from other schools around Boston and the East Coast, as well. So I’m guessing its next four investments will be pretty different from its first four, at least geographically.

“We want to meet them here,” Chung says. “We want to help you right here in Boston where the ideas were first born, where the team was put together.”

One issue they wanted to address was the notion that the fund is … Next Page »

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. Follow @gthuang

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