When Stephanie Lawrence began raising her seed round last summer, one of her first calls was to fellow Dartmouth alum Mike Collins. They weren’t old pals from the dorm, though. Collins is the lead manager of Green D Fund, an investment group that makes six-figure bets exclusively on startups with ties to Dartmouth. “It’s a fantastic resource for anyone raising money,” says Lawrence, whose company Traveling Spoon connects world travelers with vetted local hosts willing to make them a homemade meal. “Plus, it can be a great signal to other investors, to have some of that early support.”
Dartmouth alums aren’t some rare, lucky breed. Passionate alumni of schools around the country are launching similarly alum-oriented ventures, seeking to give back to (and profit from) their community. There’s the UCLA Venture Capital Fund, Stanford Angels & Entrepreneurs, IrishAngels for Notre Dame, Xfund for Harvard, and others. And unlike traditional angel investors, these alumni like to get involved. “They are incredibly willing to help and be connectors, and that’s rare for an investor that’s taking such a relatively small percentage of the total round,” Lawrence says.
Although some funds are independent, Green D is part of a network of them: Collins also launched funds for Yale and the University of New Hampshire, and has plans to expand to Princeton and Harvard. These schools, he figures, have a concentration of high-net-worth graduates with fervent attachments to their alma maters, which makes investor recruitment easy. Why don’t schools just do this themselves? Simple, Collins says: “Venture capital groups reject 95 percent of the startups they see. Schools don’t want to reject 95 percent of their alums.”