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Q&A with Dayna Grayson

Dayna Grayson, Partner, New Enterprise Associates 

UVA Seed Fund Committee Member

What inspired you to get involved with the UVA Seed Fund Committee

There has always been a strong entrepreneurial spirit alive at the University of Virginia. I felt it as an undergrad, and remember being involved with a student startup at the School of Engineering and Applied Sciences. Michael Straightiff’s enthusiasm for the UVA Seed Fund and the support he generated from UVA leadership piqued my interest, but it was largely the quality of the research ideas, and the opportunity to work with other UVA alumni in the venture industry that inspired my participation.

What role do you think the fund will play in accelerating technologies out of UVA?

It’s not easy for academic institutions to launch a fund like the UVA Seed Fund, though more and more schools are trying to create something similar. Providing access to capital at a university encourages entrepreneurship, and creates applied learning opportunities for students. The Seed Fund also plays a role in recruiting top talent and showcases UVA’s commitment to economic development.

What changes have you seen in the venture community over the last five years?

Around 2009-2010, there was a shift in venture financings in response to the decreasing costs of startup creation. Before this, it wasn’t uncommon to fund a new company with $3-5m of venture financings. Now that average is around $1-2m in initial seed funding before the company has significant customer traction. This makes raising money more accessible to a greater pool of entrepreneurs as new investors who can write smaller checks came onto the scene. And these seed funds have been quite successful in many cases. 

How has the fund progressed since you joined the committee?

Since I joined the UVA Seed Fund Investment Management Committee, I’ve been impressed with Bob Creeden’s leadership, and encouraged by the quality of each investment to date. The number of deals is right on par with where we hoped to be, and the thoroughness of the due diligence is ideal for the investment committee members’ participation.

What is the most beneficial element of inviting UVA alum to sit on the Investment Management Committee?

Engaging the UVA alumni network only helps build credibility for the fund, and elevates its reach to a national level. We each have our own insights and perspective that we can offer to the investees, with the added bonus of potentially tapping into our own networks to offer continued support. I look forward to contributing to the growth and development of the UVA Seed Fund, and its role as a catalyst for the entrepreneurship community at UVA and around Charlottesville. As a UVA alum working in venture capitalism, I can’t imagine not wanting to be involved.