Name: Mike Wilner
Hometown: Baltimore, MD
University: Washington & Lee University ’13
Major: Math & Business
What led you to apply for Venture for America?
Like many people, I was headed down the path to investment banking. The summer going into my senior year, I had an internship with a prestigious NYC bank. A few weeks in, I remember asking myself, “What am I ACTUALLY doing?” When the answer was, “underwriting municipal bonds”, I knew something had gone wrong. I realized that I desperately wanted to build something be more than grease in the wheels. I was lucky to be told about VFA from a friend; when I did my research, I knew it was exactly what I wanted to do.
What were you doing when you found out you were accepted?
I was actually doing homework in the math building. I remember knowing that I’d find out soon, and when I saw that I was getting a call from a NY phone number, I knew I was going to get some sort of news. Fortunately, it was Andrew, and he delivered the good kind. I stopped doing homework, left my books, jogged down to my house and celebrated with my friends. When I talked to Andrew, I kept a level head and thanked him, saying I’d have to think about it. However, in less than an hour I had formally accepted the offer.
Now that you’re a Fellow, what are you most excited about with regard to VFA? What do you hope to accomplish?
I’m excited to meet some awesome, likeminded people and to learn by doing. This whole startup thing can be tricky to navigate, so I’m also really looking forward to diving in and figuring out how to start something myself. During my time as a Fellow, I’d like to help build something great with my matched VFA company and maybe hatch an idea of my own with a fellow Fellow.
If you had to live one place for the rest of your life, where would you choose?
The thought of being in just one place for the rest of my life makes me uneasy; I’m a bit of a nomad. So, I think ‘a car’ would be the best answer.
Best thing about Washington & Lee:
The small student body size may deter some, but I think it’s W&L’s greatest attribute. My largest class size was probably 30, and I’ve had four classes with under 10 students. I know all of my professors personally, and the academic culture and honor system foster independence and accountability. The social scene is pretty fun, too.
Favorite Book: Rework by Jason Fried and David Heinemeier Hansson
Favorite childhood TV show: The Cosby Show
Favorite meal: Baby Back Ribs with baked beans and corn pudding…or Maryland crabs.
Favorite holiday: 4th of July
Best class you’ve ever taken: Number Theory. It challenged me to think about numbers in a completely different way, and I had to create my own Theorem, which turned out to have very little application. Looking back, it was a bit of an entrepreneurial process—coming up with a concept I was curious about and attacking the problem from different angles until I found something that worked.
Favorite thing to do on Sunday: Drive around with friends
Favorite movie quote: “SAY WHAT AGAIN!!!”
Favorite entrepreneur: Ben Milne, Dennis Crowley, Jack Dorsey, Aaron Patzer to name a few
Favorite cereal: Chocolate Rice Krispies with chocolate milk
Most worn article of clothing: My worn out Air Max’s
Favorite sports team: Baltimore Ravens
Best trip you’ve ever been on: At W&L, we have a 4 week trimester in the spring. My junior year, I spent those 4 weeks in Galway, Ireland with a bunch of my best friends. After our time in Galway was up, we went to London, Paris, and Amsterdam for two days each. I slept for a week upon my return.
Favorite historical figure: Sam Cooke, the King of Soul.
Accomplishment you’re most proud of: Whatever my next one is.