Tuesday Mar 5, 2013 by Bilal Zuberi - Principal, General Catalyst
RoughDraft.vc is an initiative that my partners Nitesh Banta, Peter Boyce and I started last year to provide the kind of unhindered financial and other support to student entrepreneurs that we would have wanted when we were students. RoughDraft.vc is a student partnership that invests in brilliant student entrepreneurs in the Greater Boston area colleges and universities.
I am proud that the partnership has announced its first investment. It is in a company called Balbus, founded by a Tufts junior Jack McDermott. John Brennan, one of the student partners at RoughDraft.vc who led the investment along with the rest of the team, has more to say about the investment on RoughDraft.vc blog (and read Jack’s blog post on this announcement here). But it is no doubt exactly the kind of projects that we envisioned backing when all this began.
Over my few years of investing I have come to learn that some of the best entrepreneurs are maniacally product driven. They don’t get into startups because its ‘cool’ or ‘sexy’, but because they simply can’t avoid thinking about a problem they want to solve and then drive hard to bring those products to market. Jack is that kind of an entrepreneur.
He is building a platform to help people with disabilities, learning and developmental disorders. His first set of products focused on speech therapy and already has apps out that thousands of people have downloaded paying him $5-30 per download. He is personally passionate about this space and frankly, would have kept working on this regardless of whether RoughDraft.vc made the investment or not. But with the investment, he can possibly go bigger, better, and faster.
I was lucky to be in the room when Jack pitched the RoughDraft.vc partnership. Most entrepreneurs who pitch generally have demos they show either in the middle or at the end of their presentation. There was this defining moment when Jack started to stutter a bit while speaking and calmly pulled out his phone, turned on an app, put on his ear phones and kept talking, this time without nearly as much stutter. He didn’t flinch for a second while the rest of us went into this deep ‘whoa!’ moment because we noticed how much his speech/stutter improved in real-time as he used his app. There is no better demo than to be the demo yourself.
RoughDraft.vc partnership has high aspirations. They want to help student entrepreneurs in as many ways as they can. I am sure they will soon have other investments to announce as well, but they are also extremely active on campuses across the Greater Boston area. Find them at hackathons bringing pizza or espresso, or at college demo days cheering for you. Nitesh and I, on behalf of General Catalyst, are so proud of the RoughDraft.vc team: John, Ryan, Ned, Delian, Emma, Zach and Peter! Onwards and upwards for this awesome student talent that Boston should be so so proud of.