The University has approved $110,000 to Prospect Student Ventures (PSV), a student-run venture capital fund started in the summer of 2020 by Ayushi Sinha ’20, Kelvin Yu ’22, and Tinashe Handina ’21, which intends to deliver money to the hands of University student entrepreneurs.
A former Princeton Entrepreneurship Club president and co-founder of WellPower, a clean water startup, Sinha cited the “funding gap” in the University’s entrepreneurship community as a driving motivator for PSV.
“We have brilliant ideas, projects, and research coming out of Princeton. Unfortunately, most never move past the ideation stage because of a lack of access to early stage funds,” Sinha said.
From Sinha’s experience pitching her startup, there is a “missed opportunity” at the University, with founders spending many months raising capital.
“Of course it’s really important to learn to be a good salesperson, but our time would have been much better spent building [the product],” she said.
With PSV, student founders will have an additional opportunity for funding with zero equity taken and no strings attached — meaning that PSV will not acquire any ownership of the startups it funds.
The investment funds will come from the office of Rodney Priestley, who was named the University Vice Dean for Innovation in February.
“We are all incredibly grateful. Dr. Priestley has been an avid supporter of our team from day one,” Yu said. “He has been a lightning rod in getting us set up and incorporated with the Keller Center.”
The $110,000 from Priestley’s office is intended to cover three years of investments, with the PSV investment size for a startup ranging between $1,000 and $10,000. $138,000 pledged in alumni donations are also pending approval from the University.
In addition to supporting founders, the dual goal of PSV is to provide students with educational experiences and opportunities in venture capital.
Since its founding, PSV has grown into a 32 person venture group — one for which Handina was excited to highlight the diverse range of backgrounds, countries, majors, and interests.
“We have members in every continent except Antarctica,” said Handina, an international student from Zimbabwe who is interested in startups in emerging markets.
All investment decisions will be made through a democratic weighted voting process with the entire group. Senior members will have more weight to their votes.
According to Sharam Hejazi, venture capital professor and advisor for PSV, venture capital firms need to have a thesis.
The PSV unofficial motto, according to Yu, Handina, and Sinha is “bridging the gap” in funding opportunities from the University from point A to Z, between the 1K idea stage and early 100K rounds.
“It’s a good thesis,” Hejazi said. “A venture fund in reality takes 5–10 years to produce something. That’s beyond the scope of a four-year undergrad degree. Thus succession planning is critical to make this scope beyond the initial members, and I think the team has done a really good job in recruiting new teams and planning for that.”