Tulane Campus Ambassador Experiences 3 Day Startup

Zoe Chaves

 

Name: Ethan Levy

Hometown: Baltimore, Maryland

University: Tulane University ’16

Majors: International Studies & Business

Company: ComeFail

 

One of our promising young entrepreneurs working as a campus ambassador at Tulane University, Ethan Levy, recently participated in 3 Day Startup (3DS), a non-profit organization that seeks to kick-start student-run companies and build entrepreneurial capabilities in university communities through their program. It’s like Startup Weekend, geared exclusively toward talented college students.  They are a tremendous organization that has conducted over 100 programs on 5 continents and have launched 54 companies that have received over $18 million in funding. As VFA continues to grow, we look forward to partnering with 3DS and other organizations that are making entrepreneurship a viable path for young people in college and after graduation.

Check out our recent interview with Ethan where we dive into his experience with VFA, 3DS and how both are helping him launch his new venture, ComeFail.

Q | How did you first catch the entrepreneurial bug?

I caught the entrepreneurial bug when I was 7 years old, when I was on a 5-day hike with my family. As a seven-year old, hiking seemed long and painful. But what really got to me was boredom. There was nothing to do but hike. So I started thinking and came up with a “business plan,” which would make me CEO of a store called “Which What Who.” At first I would sell my collections, but later I would sell practically anything that my customers wanted for a really good price! I spent the day sorting out all of the details with my family, and they all agreed to work in my store. It was encouraging. I ranted about my store for eight whole hours. Although bizarre, it was on that summer day that I decided my dream was to become an entrepreneur.

Q | How did you first get involved with VFA?

Various people had referred me to VFA, but I never understood what it was or took it seriously until I met Sean Rowland, the campus ambassador at Loyola University in New Orleans. After learning more about the program, I was intrigued. After meeting with Joe Guy, Community Marketing Manager at VFA, I was convinced that I should get more involved by becoming a campus ambassador at Tulane.

Q | Can you tell us a little bit about the venture you are starting?

I am starting a venture called ComeFail, which is an online platform for student entrepreneurs to share their ideas, improve them, and attract the resources they need as their businesses grow. Built on the philosophy that (smart) failures produce amazing growth, ComeFail is a safe space for young, college entrepreneurs to get their hands dirty. Our purpose is to increase the number of entrepreneurs and their likelihood of success, and by redefining the culture of failure, we aim to minimize fear and maximize self-improvement.

Q | What led you to participate in 3DS?

I first heard of 3DS when I was participating in Startup Weekend. Students from the University of New Orleans recommended that I participate, since it would be a great opportunity for me to connect with other students and grow my business.

Q | Could you describe the 3DS experience at a high level?

3 Day Startup is an event that brings students together for 3 days to work on startups. Having now participated, I can say it’s an incredible experience. 3DS encourages students to spend one weekend in the startup field, giving students a taste of the startup lifestyle and all of its great energy. Students are rarely given the opportunity to get away from schoolwork and social life to work on their ideas. 3DS gives students that opportunity.

Check out this brief documentary that shows students in action at 3DS.

Q | How did your venture change and improve as a result of 3DS?

Thanks to the 3DS experience, my venture grew more in 3 days than it did in 15 months. I came into the 3DS event with a concept called Launchange, which was a concept for an online platform that would connect students within universities based on skills and interests so they could build businesses together. Launchange was one of two ideas that were selected. After being grilled with tough questions from the 3DS faculty advisor, I was convinced that Launchange was not worth building. This led me to pivot to ComeFail. I believe that our product is now much stronger and more likely to succeed. Also, my teammates (who participated in the event with me and are pictured below) are more excited. Shortly put, 3DS energized my team and improved our product significantly.

IMG_3069 (1)

Q | What advice would you give a student that’s interested in building something?

Go for it. Fail early and fail fast. Learn with each failure. Embrace uncertainty. Have an open mind. Have fun during the process. Be up for the challenge. Be resilient. Starting a business can be tough, so you have to learn to enjoy the process.


Ethan is just one of 60 individuals officially representing VFA at universities across the country. His experience at 3DS is just one example of the many opportunities available to our campus ambassadors.  If you are interested in joining our team, learn more about the position and apply on our jobs page.

In Their Own Words: Our Fellows Share the VFA Story [VIDEO]

What’s it Really Like to be a VFA Fellow?

Everyone enjoys a good story, but what makes a good story great is when you can hear it directly from the source. That’s exactly why we created our newest video to showcase the dynamic environments our fellows are living and working in, and how the fellowship experience has helped them launch their careers as entrepreneurs.

Like what you see?  Dive deeper into what our fellows are doing on the job, consider submitting an application for an upcoming deadline and share with others that are interested in learning how to become successful entrepreneurs.

Introducing the VFA Innovation Fund

A message from Andrew Yang:

It’s hard to get started as a young entrepreneur—often much harder than one would ever realize. For me, it took a failed company and years of experience of a startup executive before I hit a point where I could effectively run a company. I started Venture for America in order to give our talented young people a more well-lit runway.

The first 40 Fellows who joined Venture for America are some of the most enterprising young people I’ve ever encountered. Aside from constantly striving to make an impact at their companies in Detroit, New Orleans, Providence, Cincinnati and Las Vegas, many spend their free time pursuing passion projects or trying to improve their communities. Not only did they choose to take the path less traveled to become entrepreneurs and have a positive impact —they continue to create value every day.

Screen Shot 2013-06-12 at 1.03.12 PMWe’re thrilled to announce that thanks to American Express OPEN Forum, a platform for small business owners and entrepreneurs to share advice, our Fellows now have access to the VFA Innovation Fund: a fund created solely to fund the ideas of VFA Fellows. Right now at VFA.RocketHub.com, our Fellows are working to promote their ideas and crowdfund their way to the first $20,000 in funding available only to them. The Fellows that raise the most money between now and July 8th will gain access to the Innovation Fund to get their ideas off the ground.

Please take a moment to look through their projects and see the incredible things our Fellows are doing— teaching entrepreneurship in middle schools, trying to simplify meeting people at networking events, creating an affordable Cincinnati sandwich shop, and more. Over the next several weeks, the Fellows will be seeking advice and support from their networks, and working to raise as much money as possible.

Visit VFA.RocketHub.com today to show your support. Let’s help today’s young entrepreneurs create new opportunities for themselves and others.

What entrepreneurs should be doing

Several people have forwarded the VFA Team a recent MIT entrepreneurship essay on the sort of problems American entrepreneurs should be focused on. It’s very thought-provoking, and accurate in arguing that both the market and the respective experiences of founders drive what sort of companies get started and invested in (and which don’t), and why that might not always lead to the kind of innovation we need. Great read.

It’s Never Too Young to Start Thinking Like an Entrepreneur

Pic 4 LAST WEEK, NEW ORLEANS ENTREPRENEUR CHRIS SCHULTZ VISITED KIPP CENTRAL CITY SCHOOL IN NEW ORLEANS TO TAKE PART IN THE STARTUP EFFECT, A NON-PROFIT STARTED BY FOUR VFA FELLOWS. NOW, CO-FOUNDERS MIKE MAYER AND BILLY SCHRERO ARE TEACHING ENTREPRENEURSHIP IN MIDDLE SCHOOLS TO EMPOWER YOUTH WITH THE NECESSARY TOOLS TO THINK INDEPENDENTLY, PROACTIVELY, AND CREATIVELY, RESULTING IN INNOVATION AND VALUE CREATION.

SCHULTZ, WHO HAS CO-FOUNDED LAUNCH PAD & FLATSTACK, AND IS CURRENTLY LAUNCHING A NEW VENTURE CALLED NIKO NIKO, INVESTS IN NEW ORLEANS COMPANIES THROUGH VOODOO VENTURES. BASED ON HIS SUCCESS LAUNCHING COMPANIES, HE HAS TAKEN AN INTEREST IN MENTORING OTHER ENTREPRENEURS, WHICH LED HIM TO BECOME INVOLVED WITH THE STARTUP EFFECT.

READ ON TO HEAR MORE ABOUT CHRIS’S EXPERIENCE HANGING OUT WITH THE STARTUP EFFECT KIDS AND THE WORK MIKE AND BILLY ARE DOING IN NEW ORLEANS. ULTIMATELY, THEY HOPE TO SPUR ENTREPRENEURIAL THOUGHT WHERE IT MATTERS MOST – IN THE MINDS OF THE YOUTH IN THESE GROWING CITIES WHERE VFA FELLOWS ARE PLACED.


By Chris Schultz, Co-founder of LaunchPad & Flatstack in New Orleans (Originally published in Huffington Post)

“Who wants fireballs going out, and who wants her shooting flames?” Lionel asked.

The hands went up for fireballs, and Lionel spun around the flame out of the trumpet arms on Fiona Flames, the new character that he prototyped in real-time the ideas being generated by the class of 7th and 8th graders at KIPP Central City in New Orleans.

Pic 1We were in front of this eager group thanks to a new program called Startup Effect, launched by newcomers to New Orleans, Billy Schrero & Mike Mayer, two Venture for America Fellows working with startups in the city.

Startup Effect is an after-school program designed to expose middle school students to real-world startups and inspire them to “Work Smart! Act Now! & Dream Big!” the call and response mantra that Schrero and Mayer shout like coaches during the fast-paced afternoon session.

Lionel Milton is the creator of Mardi Brah, an iPhone football skills game set in the streets of New Orleans, and he had come on this day to get real product feedback from the students who were, in fact, the target audience for the game. The Mardi Brah challenge was prototyping and the students had been taught the importance of “play & refine” and once you design something, you have to test and evolve. The week prior, they had designed a stick figure drawing of a new character for Mardi Brah, and Lionel was here to turn it into a real character in the game, right before their eyes.

Pic 7

Lionel took the prototype the students had created and sketched the female character before digitalizing it and putting it up on a giant screen where the students could provide input and watch the prototyping process. The kids were mesmerized as Lionel constructed Tutti based on their input, carefully running through color choices and adding details like a hair bow and getting her eyes just so. By the time we got to the fireballs coming out of the trumpet-arms, the students had seen their vision executed and the prototype was ready for the game.

Startup Effect is a powerful new program on many levels. The students at KIPP Central City are being exposed to real companies and learning cutting edge startup thinking, and getting started early. The mantra keeps reminding the students that they have the opportunity to do anything they want, they just have to work at it.

Schrero and Mayer are going beyond their full-time positions as Venture for America Fellows with Staff Insight and Federated Sample in New Orleans. They’ve taken it to another level and decided to make an impact beyond just working hard and helping those companies succeed. They have build a program in Startup Effect that will positively impact students in New Orleans and is scalable across Venture for America cities.

It’s a virtuous cycle of paying it forward, and we’re fortunate to have Venture for America & Startup Effect in New Orleans.

Work Smart! Act Now! & Dream Big!

Last chance to join the class of 2013!

With our final deadline to join the Class of 2013 approaching this Monday, February 18th at 11:59pm E.T, this is your last chance to become part of our second class of Fellows! If you’ve been thinking about applying, now’s the time.

To work on your application, you can visit ventureforamerica.org/apply. For answers to your questions about the application or Fellowship, visit our FAQs page or e-mail apply@ventureforamerica.org. (Please note: Recommendations are OPTIONAL. As long as you have your written application, resume, and transcript (official or unofficial) submitted by the deadline, you will still be considered.)

If you’re wondering what the life of a VFA Fellow is really like, check out recent interviews with two of our Fellows, Tim Dingman and Sam Stites, as they describe a typical day on the job.

Tim Dingman, Accio Energy in Detroit

How did you choose which startup you’d work with and what’s your typical day like?

“VFA actually has a two-step application process. First, you’re hired by VFA and then you need to be hired by one of their partner startup companies. I was able to give my preferences– I wanted to work in sustainable energy and engineering and use my technical skill-set but not be pigeon-holed into a strictly technical role. I went through a few interviews and I was ultimately matched with the perfect opportunity at Accio Energy, a company that is revolutionizing how wind-powered energy is generated.

On a day to day basis, I work on the computer modeling of protoypes Accio is planning to build, measuring how the model will interact with wind and electric fields. Based on the work I do, we can refine prototypes to be as effective as possible. Typically a position like mine would report to the Chief Technology Officer but instead I work closely with the Chief Financial Officer because I wanted to get experience on the operational side as well as the technical side.”

See Tim’s full interview on the Seelio Blog here.

Sam Stites, TurboSquid in New Orleans

What’s a typical day like for you?

“Scoot into the Squid Shack, grab a bowl of Luck Charms—hoho! More marshmallows than yesterday? I think so! Chat with Adele, our VP of Marketing, about Entrepreneurship, greet the desk mates, hop onto the computer, and kick up Excel, R, and SQL Server. I’ve got my headphones in with The Stanford Ecorner or an audiobook on play. Break for some design meeting where we discover that the name of the project has changed yet again, and we talk about edge cases of animal taxonomy: How do we classify BearManPig on the site? Is it a Bear, a Man, or a Pig? No it’s a BearManPig!

Stay in late to ask questions on StackedOverflow. Chat with Jonathan Lloyd, my boss and the VP of Product Development, about TurboSquid in the bar downstairs, then, depending on the day, go through some of MIT’s OpenCourseWare. Head over to The New Movement Theater for improv, or go rock climbing with Mark. Get back home, fix some dinner, work on a personal project, and crash for the night.”

See Sam’s full interview for TurboSquid’s “Meet the Squids” series here.

Adjusting for Risk

Andrew Yang’s most recent Huffington Post article digs into how we get more of our most talented young people to embark on the high-risk, high-reward path to entrepreneurship and building businesses.

Check out the article below and subscribe to Andrew’s articles on the Huffington Post here!


Originally published by Huffington Post

Occasionally a company is born that creates immense value, generating hundreds of jobs and even transforming multiple communities. At Venture for America, we are looking to find the people who are capable of helping found or build these companies.

One reason why entrepreneurs are admired is that they often take on a degree of risk in launching a new business. There’s reputational risk; your name is on the line to your friends and family who know what you’re doing (and they really should know). Then there’s financial risk; at a minimum you’re devoting time with uncertain reward, and presumably forgoing some form of income and/or putting your own money in to get the business off the ground. If a business doesn’t achieve its goals, the founder(s) often experience significant personal consequences.

How do we increase the odds of individuals taking on the challenges of starting a new business?

One of the quandaries is that many of the people who would have the most to offer as a founder or inventor have other appealing options. Let’s say that you were to line up 100 brilliant 21-year-olds that might have the potential to start a company someday. You tell them, “Okay, you have two choices. You can commit to being an entrepreneur. There’s a 10 percent chance that you become extraordinarily successful, wealthy and create hundreds of jobs. There’s a 30 percent chance that you’re a modest success. And there’s a 60 percent chance that you toil in obscurity for years and have some good stories to tell. Alternatively, you can commit to a high-paying career at a well-regarded company, and there’s a 95 percent chance you’ll succeed by most conventional standards.”

What would the 100 brilliant 21-year olds do? Most of them would probably opt for the latter path, because they only have one outcome to consider — their own. They have one life to live, and with the first option, both the chances of failure and the consequences may come across as unacceptably high. These individuals have often been successful at whatever they’ve put their minds to up to this point, which may make taking on risks unappealing. Plus, their parents may have invested considerable resources getting them to this point, increasing the pressure to ensure a return.

What would happen if you were to line up the same 100 21-year olds and give them the same choice, but with this change: “You will all sign a contract that if you become an extraordinarily successful entrepreneur, you will share the financial and reputational rewards with the other 99 people here in this room by hiring as many of them for your venture as you can.” Would this change anything? Now, each person’s downside would be significantly reduced as long as someone in the cohort does extremely well. Taking on the risky path could become a much more reasonable bet for each as a result of the collective understanding.

One way to get more of our most talented young people to embark on the higher-risk, higher-reward path is to create a community and network. It might be a lot easier to take risks if you’re part of a group who will look out for one another.

Help VFA win the JobRaising Challenge

 



Dear VFA Friends and Supporters:

We're thrilled to announce that Venture for America has been chosen as a finalist for The Huffington Post's JobRaising challenge!  Now, we're out to raise as much money as possible and we need your help.  The winner of the challenge will receive $150,000 from the Skoll Foundation – enough to help 10 VFA Fellows join and help build startup companies in cities that need them.
 

Here's how you can help…

Make a Donation: Click here to make a contribution today. Every amount helps, no matter how small!  If you've ever thought about giving money to VFA, now's the time.  ;)  

Fundraise for VFA: If you'd like to help VFA raise money to win the JobRaising Challenge, click here and go to "Create your Fundraiser." In seconds, you'll have your own fundraising page you can share with family and friends.

Anyone who donates through our JobRaising Challenge Fundraising Campaign before the end of the contest on March 1, 2013 will be eligible to receive the following prizes:

$25+: An awesome pair of Venture for America Sunglasses
$100+: One of our ever-popular VFA T-shirts
$250+: A General Admission Ticket to the 2013 Venture for America Summer Celebration on Thursday, May 30th in New York City
$1,000+: A VIP ticket to the Venture for America Summer Celebration, which includes access to the VIP lounge where guests can mingle with prominent business luminaries
 

This is a great opportunity to help VFA raise money and awareness and help put Americans back to work. Please help Venture for America achieve our mission:

To revitalize American cities and communities through entrepreneurship. 
To enable our best and brightest to create new opportunities for themselves and others.
To restore the culture of achievement to include value-creation, risk and reward, and the common good.

If you have any questions regarding the challenge itself, please email JobRaising@CrowdRise.com and they'll respond.  For anything VFA-related please contact donate@ventureforamerica.org.  

The Class of 2013 is at 22 Fellows and growing every day.  Thanks again for your support!

The VFA Team 
 

Click Here for the contest rules for the $150k, $50k and $30k grand prizes.

VFA on Campus: Week of January 21-25

Our final deadline to join the Class of 2013 is less than one month away, and VFA representatives and Fellows will be on campus everyday this week to meet with potential applicants and answer all your questions about the fellowship.

Be sure to keep up with our blog and follow us on Twitter to stay up to date on our events!

Tuesday, January 22nd

RIT Info Session
Hosted by 2012 Fellow Rob Solomon.
Rochester Institute of Technology
Bausch & Lomb Center, Room A-190
3:00-4:00pm

Lehigh Info Session
Lehigh University
UC 408
5:00-6:00pm

Wednesday, January 23rd

Villanova Info Session
Bartley Hall, Room 1011
Villanova School of Business
1:00-2:00pm

Swarthmore Info Session
Swarthmore University
Parrish Hall 159
4:00-5:00pm

Middlebury Info Session
Hosted by 2013 Fellow Astrid Schanz-Garbassi.
Middlebury College
McCardell Bicentennial Hall 104
6:00-7:00pm

Haverford Info Session
Bryn Mawr College
Campus Center Room 200
6:30-7:30pm

Thursday, January 24th

Duke Career Fair
Come by the Duke Career Fair to meet 2013 Fellows Shilpi Kumar and Jack Farrell and learn more about VFA.
10:00am-3:00pm

Friday, January 25th

Columbia/Barnard Career Fair
LeFrak Gymnasium
3009 Broadway
New York, NY 10027
9:30-1:30pm

VFA on Campus:
Week of January 21-25

Our final deadline to join the Class of 2013 is less than one month away, and VFA representatives and Fellows will be on campus everyday this week to meet with potential applicants and answer all your questions about the fellowship.

Be sure to keep up with our blog and follow us on Twitter to stay up to date on our events!

Tuesday, January 22nd

RIT Info Session
Hosted by 2012 Fellow Rob Solomon.
Rochester Institute of Technology
Bausch & Lomb Center, Room A-190
3:00-4:00pm

Lehigh Info Session
Lehigh University
UC 408
5:00-6:00pm

Wednesday, January 23rd

Villanova Info Session
Bartley Hall, Room 1011
Villanova School of Business
1:00-2:00pm

Swarthmore Info Session
Swarthmore University
Parrish Hall 159
4:00-5:00pm

Middlebury Info Session
Hosted by 2013 Fellow Astrid Schanz-Garbassi.
Middlebury College
McCardell Bicentennial Hall 104
6:00-7:00pm

Haverford Info Session
Bryn Mawr College
Campus Center Room 200
6:30-7:30pm

Thursday, January 24th

Duke Career Fair
Come by the Duke Career Fair to meet 2013 Fellows Shilpi Kumar and Jack Farrell and learn more about VFA.
10:00am-3:00pm

Friday, January 25th

Columbia/Barnard Career Fair
LeFrak Gymnasium
3009 Broadway
New York, NY 10027
9:30-1:30pm