Shreyas Parab, an investment partner on the San Francisco team, attends Stanford University. He applied to Dorm Room Fund his freshman year of college, was rejected, then reapplied his sophomore year.
Walk us through your DRF application journey.
I applied formally my freshman year, got the Superday interview, then was rejected. And to be honest, luckily, they didn’t have to give too much feedback because after the conversation, the glaring holes in my knowledge and background were obvious. In my senior year of high school, I heard about Dorm Room Fund through the First Round Capital holiday video. First Round Capital is based in Philadelphia, which is the city that I’m from and love, and I saw that this rich guy named Josh Kopelman owned The Philadelphia Inquirer. I was like, if he owns this newspaper, he must have done something right. So I look him up, and I’m like, oh, this is how he makes his money – investing. I see their Christmas video and Dorm Room Fund. After that, it was a rabbit hole. I started attending DRF events my senior year of high school. I knew that I eventually wanted to get into it, and I would go with the mindset to get exposure and see if these are the kinds of people I like working with. I remember saying to Shawn Xu, a DRF Alum who was getting his MBA at Wharton at the time, and I said, “I’m not going to be able to do it this year, next year, or I might not ever be able to do it. But I just want to say you guys are interesting and cool people that I want to spend more time around.”
After DRF rejected you, what errors do you think you made?
I knew a lot about startups, but I didn’t really think about it in a systematic way. I had strong opinions, but I didn’t have a method to my madness. And, again, it’s not that they expect you to have methods, but they want you to think and be intentional about building your own framework. Before you build a framework, choose the battle you want to play. Some people are always like blockchain is really hot right now, maybe I should invest in blockchain. That doesn’t make sense if you don’t know anything about blockchain. Choose something that you might have above average experience, even if it’s really small. Who knows, maybe your mom or dad is a doctor. You actually have some unique insight about the medical profession or healthcare than the average American. That’s not really a strong edge, but it’s a small edge. It could even be like you were a lifeguard. You can think about fitness technology or shift management problem better. The next important thing is to really dig deep into understanding what part of this problem excites you or exists in the space. Once you’ve identified those problems, identify thought leaders and consume as much content from those thought leaders. Then synthesize the similarities you are hearing.
How do you answer the ‘Why DRF’ question?
Here’s a potential response: After learning about your communities and the people in it, or the things I would get to do, I think it would fulfill these x, y, z truth-isms, that will universally be true, but are specifically accentuated in this community because of x, y, z. I’ve done the research, I’ve talked to X number of people, I’ve watched this and learn this.
DRF always emphasizes getting a really high return on investment on learning. That is the measure of success – how much have we learned and have contributed to the community. That is not the traditional fund return on investment. But to me, that was something that I now carry for the rest of my life – how much am I going to learn from the experience? How much am I going to be able to contribute to the people around me?
What if a student doesn’t attend a school with a fancy name?
People with privileges will focus on the wrong things because all they focus on is leveraging the privileges they have. I go to Stanford, and I don’t want to pretend like I don’t have those privileges. But I will say the people that I’m always more impressed by are the ones who do not have much given and still do a lot with it. Because those are the people that when you give them something, they’re going to 10x, 20x it.