(Photo: Kyle Good) Ayaan Dhir walks into the UCI ANTrepreneur Center before an event.

Ayaan Dhur professional headshotFor students looking to launch their own start-up, funding is essential to transforming an idea into an actual business. Securing funding can mean the difference between a successful venture and a dream that never was. 

No one understands the critical role that funding can play in an entrepreneur’s journey better than the students behind the California Crescent Fund, Southern California’s premiere student-run venture fund. Designed to tap into SoCal’s deep pool of talent and innovative ideas, the Crescent Fund represents a supportive network of student entrepreneurs who are looking to become the next generation of business leaders.

To learn more about the Crescent Fund and how students can leverage the opportunities it offers, Ryan Foland, Director of the UCI ANTrepreneur Center, sat down with Ayaan Dhir, second-year Computer Science and Innovation and Entrepreneurship student and UCI’s Crescent Fund University Partner, for more information. 

Ryan: Thanks for taking the time to meet with me, Ayaan! To kick off this interview, can you tell me a little bit more about the Crescent Fund and how you got involved with it?

Ayaan: Happy to be here! Crescent’s mission is to create a strong community of innovative and talented student entrepreneurs in Southern California by providing access to capital for student-run startups. 

I got involved at Crescent thanks to Alex Pham, a California Crescent Fund partner at UCI, who connected me with the Crescent community. My main responsibilities as a University Partner at UCI is to connect the student start-ups at UCI to the Crescent Fund and provide them with the help they need to get funding.

Ryan: Where does Crescent get its investment capital?

Ayaan: Crescent gets its capital from venture funds like Tribe Capital, Toba Capital, and Wonder Ventures. They also receive capital from alumni and operator angels from companies like Snap, Twilio, Clickup, Buckle, and more! 

We typically only back founders with a concrete vision of why they need the money (for instance, to run experiments, hire more people, build their infrastructure, and so on) since our money comes as funding as opposed to a grant. 

Ryan: Aside from funding, You mentioned that Crescent is also focused on community building and networking. Can you discuss some of the other benefits of getting involved with Crescent?

Ayaan: Absolutely, Crescent is unique because of its community, access, and resources. In terms of community, we host different types of events to bring people together, including speaker events, expert deep dives, and customer introductions. We also create access for our student start-ups by offering opportunities to tap into organization partnerships, mentorships from our board of advisors, and the collective intelligence and experience of the most talented students in SoCal. Finally we support founders with internal resources to help scale their ideas and businesses. For example we provide a talent database for first hires, developer packs and cloud computing credit, access to our founder and alumni network, and tactical playbooks. 

Ryan: Very cool! Now I’m sure that our student-entrepreneurs will want to know, what is Crescent looking for in a start-up?

Ayaan: Crescent is open to start-ups across all industries. We are focused on funding venture-backable startups (i.e path to $1B+ valuation) in any sector that students want to work on. 

We love to hear from all students and we’re more than happy to put our network and resources to work to help you get on your feet. However, if you’re focused on raising funding, we tend to look for students with a minimum viable product or who have launched a project with users. Ultimately, we like to see some sort of technical progress towards building your vision. Other than that, we listen to all ideas and form our own convictions, and we are happy to chat through our decision-making when the time is right!

Ryan: How can students get involved with Crescent?

Ayaan: In order to connect with the Crescent Fund, reach out to me at ayaan@californiacrescent.fund and we can meet. From there, I’ll connect you with the Crescent community for the other partners to hear your pitch and we will assess whether you are ready for funding.

Ryan: Awesome! Thank you again for talking with me. I have one last question to close this out. What advice do you have for aspiring student entrepreneurs?

Ayaan: The lessons that you learn from building, exploring, analyzing, and ideating start-ups will provide you with experiences and lessons that you won’t find elsewhere. I encourage anyone with an interest in solving problems and making an impact to get involved in UCI’s entrepreneurship scene. 

There are a multitude of opportunities available at UCI for anyone interested in entrepreneurship, with places like the ANTrepreneur Center and the Beall Center of Innovation and Entrepreneurship and student organizations like Sigma Eta Pi, the Latino Business Student Association (LBSA), and Blockchain@UCI. There are also great events such as the Stella Zhang New Venture Competition, Beall and Butterworth Product Development/Design Competition, and the UCI Mental Health Hackathon. All this shows that UCI is quickly developing an innovative ecosystem of its own, and now is the perfect time to be a part of it!

If you need any help or advice for how to get started on your entrepreneurial journey feel free to reach out to me!

To learn more about the California Crescent Fund, check out their website, connect on Twitter and LinkedIn, or contact Ayaan at ayaan@californiacrescent.fund. For more information about the UCI ANTrepreneur Center and how it can support your entrepreneurial journey, visit their website or follow them on Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, and LinkedIn.