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Pejman Mar Ventures And UC Berkeley Students Are Creating Tech Companies Of Tomorrow

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Palo Alto based Pejman Mar Ventures is an early stage venture capital seed fund with a history of supporting great companies like Dropbox, Lending Club, ZenPayroll, etc. Recently they’ve announced an inaugural $250K Startup Challenge to find and help grow the next big technology company at UC Berkeley. Below is our interview with Pejman Nozad, Managing Partner at Pejman Mar Ventures:

Pejman NozadQ: Inaugural UC Berkeley $250K Startup Challenge is the first of its kind. Tell us something more about the challenge?

A:  We felt that in our fund, it was important to invest in very early stage startups and 7 of the companies we’ve invested in so far had founders who were still students (5 out of Stanford, one out of Carnegie Mellon University, and one out of MIT). We know that Cal has a huge pool of talented students and founders. In fact, their science department is number one in the nation next to Stanford and MIT but Berkeley doesn’t get the same attention as Stanford largely because Sand Hill Rd is next to Stanford and that’s where most of the Venture Capitalists or CEO’s homes are. When you walk to Stanford, every day you see CEOs or investors- either they’re teaching a class or mentoring a group but Berkeley doesn’t get that attention although it’s only a 45 minute drive away. For these reasons, we saw a big opportunity to tap into this community.

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Q: The winning company will become part of the Pejman Mar Ventures portfolio. What target areas are the most interest to you?

A: We don’t really have any particular target area. As a fund, our philosophy is that investors don’t create futures, entrepreneurs do, so we are waiting for people to come tell us what the next big thing is. We typically like people who are solving real problems in a big market. We spend a lot of time getting to know the founders…why are they doing it, what is the motivation, are they taking risk? The chemistry of a team is also very important to us and although we aren’t looking for anything specific, typically we like founders who are after a big market. We look for founders who technologically, have an advantage over competitors.

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Q: How does Pejman Mar Ventures differ from other venture capital firms?

A: I think we are building a community for our founders by turning them into members of a family. We think it takes a village to build a company, so we use all the resources at our disposal to help this family. I think our team has a great background- my partner, Mar, has been a founder 3 times, holds a PHD in Electrical Engineering from Stanford, was a consulting professor, and I’ve invested in over 200 startups, so we’re a very dynamic team. We’re not afraid to write the first check and roll up our sleeves. We really become our founders’ partners throughout the whole journey.


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Q: What is the best way to approach Pejman Mar Ventures with a business plan? What topics should be addressed by business plan?

A: Basically, I think we love founders who’ve found a way to get to us. I think if they’ve gone out of their way to find somebody who knows me, Mar, or someone else here, that’s a great mindset for a founder to have. Secondly, making things short is the best way to go- sending in an executive summary of the team, their backgrounds, market landscape, the problem they’re solving, and what the competitive advantage is of their company.

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