Peter Boyce II ’13Peter Boyce II ’13
Applied mathematics concentrator, computer science minor
Mather House

Peter Boyce has been helping to launch startups ever since he got to Harvard, where a love of entrepreneurship soon outpaced dreams of being a physicist. Inspired by dorm room and dining hall ingenuity, he created HackHarvard and Harvard College Ventures while an undergraduate to support student entrepreneurs and connect them to alumni mentors.

Today, he’s a venture capital investor at General Catalysts Partners and cofounder of Rough Draft Ventures, helping to fund promising student startups. Deeply grateful for his Harvard experience, Boyce gives back by volunteering as vice chair for recent graduates on the Harvard College Fund Executive Committee and through philanthropic support. Here, he shares advice for aspiring founders and why the Harvard alumni network remains a constant in his life.

What did you dream of doing as a kid? And at Harvard?
I spent my childhood in love with astronomy, mathematics, and physics. I was lucky enough to read Stephen Hawking’s A Brief History of Time in middle school, and it helped carve my childhood ambitions. I wanted to do cutting-edge research in physics. I was lucky that two physicists I really wanted to model my future paths on—Lisa Randall ’84, PhD ’87 and Brian Greene ’84—went to my high school (Stuyvesant High School) and to Harvard.

 When I got to Harvard, however, I recognized that my real talents and passions—and what everyone was looking for me to do—were related to computers, technology, and entrepreneurship.

You then launched your own student startups to help others like you. Why?
When I was on campus, it was clear that there were individuals working on startups and science projects in their own dorm rooms and dining halls. I really wanted to help bring people together so that they could see they weren’t the only ones building an app or company on the side.

I wanted to figure out how to create a community around building startups and new technology. And I wanted to see how we could meaningfully engage alumni in the process.

What role did alumni play in those early efforts?
There’s an insane history of entrepreneurs on campus, and I wanted to find ways to bring them back. Students get inspired and energized by alumni who built technology companies. People like Antonio Rodriguez ’96 from Matrix Partners, Ellie Wheeler MBA ’11 of Greycroft, Dustin Moskovitz COL ’06 of Asana Inc., and Chris Paik ’09 from Thrive Capital came to talk with us and were super forthcoming and helpful. I was lucky to meet Nitesh Banta ’08. He was one of the first supporters of what we were doing for HackHarvard. He lived in Harvard Square and would come to events. His connectivity to and willingness to take a chance on unproven students were magical to me.

You took a break from Harvard for a year to pursue different projects. Why come back?
For me, spending time away from Harvard was a great opportunity to see firsthand how entrepreneurship grows outside of university campuses. I learned so much from what I saw unfolding in New York in companies like Meetup and other self-organizing groups created to work on projects together. I came back to campus with the skills, maturity, and perspective to connect the academic with the professional in a way that I didn’t have when I was first on campus.

What excites you most about what you’re doing now?
I’m always looking for ways to help founders and bring mentors and entrepreneurs together. I’m a lucky investor at General Catalyst. Working with Spencer Lazar ’07, I helped launch our New York office. It was really exciting to plant the flag in Manhattan because there is such an entrepreneurial ecosystem here. There are so many incredible founders to support as well as future technologies, new companies, and opportunities not yet met.

I also cofounded and manage Rough Draft Ventures, which helps students pitch startups and provides early investment in their ideas. It’s an expansion on my thesis that there is nothing more exciting than when young people are given the opportunities to build companies. 

What kind of advice do you give your entrepreneurs?
People are really at the heart of every great technology, every great company, and every great community. Invest in high-quality people so that you are building a great team and learning from mentors. Finding ways to learn from the best people and being helpful to others is crucial for founders, CEOs, or other leaders. 

Second, don’t close yourself off from serendipity. I often talk about a certain passage in a sci-fi novel (Snow Crash by Neal Stephenson) that gave me great insight into the future of a company I was working with. You’ll never know where you’ll find inspiration.

I think you also need to look to the long term so you can allocate your time differently. Ask yourself, “What do I really want to be doing?”

What kinds of trends are you seeing?
Folks are looking for a sense of community and connectivity in new ways. Social health, mental health, and the health of our relationships with family, friends, and colleagues are going to be huge areas. Travel experience is also an area that is proving to be very important in building creativity, empathy, and success in a global world. 

You joined the Harvard College Fund Executive Committee this fall as vice chair for recent graduates. How would you describe this group of alumni?
A lot of folks are on their “second or third act.” They’ve been working a bit and are now trying to find ways to get close to what they’re truly most passionate about. I see folks going deeper in their relationships, looking back to their friendships from campus, and reconnecting with people they hadn’t been close with before. They’re looking to find fulfillment outside of the day-to-day.

You also just made a generous gift to Harvard this past fall. Why give back?
I get chills thinking about this question. It’s hard to think about my identity and success going forward without the role that Harvard has played in it. I came to Harvard with a scholarship funded by Lloyd Blankfein ’75, JD ’78. Financial aid helped make this experience possible.

Where would I be without Harvard? I met my girlfriend at a Harvard summer program. I got to know the firm where I’m lucky to work today through an alumnus. I don’t know in what universe I would be so lucky if it weren’t for Harvard.

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