Fellow Spotlight: Jake L’Ecuyer, Benzinga

vm0MFK9t81NZXXPw3579jqMARUZLQUO891xrYlhW9MQName: Jake L’Ecuyer

Hometown: Troy, Michigan

University: Michigan State University ‘11

City: DetroitBenzingaLogo1

Senior Analyst, Benzinga

What initially attracted you to Venture for America?

It was a “safer” way to get involved with a startup. Every startup I had worked with always offered me about 10 bucks an hour, and thats not a living. VFA guaranteed a wage and benefits while offering training, but allowed me to work at a startup like I wanted. Giving me a strong network of peers and a brand add to my resume was pretty important too, as the startup I joined may not succeed (as many do not). So it was almost like a 2 year insurance policy for working at a startup.

 What is the best part of being a VFA Fellow?

Having the startup job, but a national brand backing me. It’s essentially the best of both worlds. The network is awesome too.

What does Benzinga do? 

Our goal is to level the playing field between the institutional and retail (every day) investor. We do this with the 3 pillars of our company:

1. Benzinga- Our front facing media brand, where we have full length articles about the markets.

2. BenzingaPro- Our real-time news feed that covers financial markets and provides data on their movements and fundamentals.

3. Marketfy- A marketplace for financial products ranging from books, to training courses, to traders that you can subscribe to and learn to trade their strategies from. The key to marketfy is tracking software that validates every trade made by our mavens (the expert traders), which proves their entries and exits in the market are actually possible, and gives more transparency to their methods for the users.

What do you do on a typical day at work?

I work primarily on the Benzinga news desk as a market analyst. So I arrive at 7am and start analyzing market news, write a few stories for Benzinga.com, help our upper level clients understand why certain stocks, commodities, and futures are moving, and cover things like press conferences and conference calls. I also go on Tide Traders, a stock market internet radio show every day at 11:30am to give a news update. Finally, I go on Stocks and Jocks, a Chicago AM radio show to talk stocks and sports every Tuesday morning with CNBC’s Jon Najarian and ‘The Chief’.  Starting in the near future, we will also have a bi-weekly spot on Chinese national TV to cover the US stock market, which I will appear on once a week. That covers my duties on the desk, but I also run our internship recruitment and full time recruitment, and act as a contributing editor for Benzinga.com.

What’s your favorite thing about Detroit? 

Probably the huge opportunity here. Detroit was at one time such a powerhouse, but is a husk of what it used to be. What many see as a dangerous and failed city, I see as a fantastic opportunity. There is no one saying “you can’t do that” here, if you’re doing something productive or providing value, you get encouragement and support. It’s a city of doers, and I love that. Creative ideas quickly gain support in Detroit as our city scrambles for a solution to its economic woes.

What do you hope to accomplish in your time with VFA?

I want to feel like I have enough knowledge to build a company. So I want the relationships needed, some solid experience, and an understanding of how to build up a customer base and business model. Hopefully by the time the Fellowship is over I will feel comfortable enough to launch something on my own, as my dream is to be completely self sufficient and not have a need for a job or be tied to one location.

 

Fellow Spotlight: Brian Bosché, Bizdom

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Name: Brian Bosché

Hometown: Newport Beach, California and Bozeman, Montana

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University: Dartmouth College ‘12

City: Detroit

Recruitment & Development,  Bizdom

 

What initially attracted you to Venture for America?

I was creating a proposal for a Center of Entrepreneurship at Dartmouth College for one of my Public Policy classes, and was interested in what opportunities were available for students in startups after graduation.  After seeing dozens of flyers on campus, I went to the Venture for America info session with Andrew Yang, and was hooked by his vision.

 What is the best part of being a VFA Fellow?

Access. Being a VFA Fellow means I have direct access to leaders in my community, successful entrepreneurs in the VFA mentorship network, and a strong peer community of Fellows around the country.

What does Bizdom do? 

Bizdom is a startup accelerator that helps entrepreneurs launch, fund and grow innovative, web and tech-based startups. As a community organization, we also organize and support entrepreneurship events and trainings in Detroit.  Bizdom is a nonprofit that was founded by Dan Gilbert, founder and chairman of Quicken Loans, majority owner of the Cleveland Cavaliers, and general partner of Detroit Venture Partners.

What do you do on a typical day at work?

Recruitment and Development.  I recruit startups into Bizdom and then vet the candidate pools for each program session (3 per year).  I work with the companies individually on anything they have a need for, including pitch practice, social media, customer service, sales, business development, and mentor outreach.  I also help plan community and entrepreneurship events in Detroit.

What’s your favorite thing about Detroit? 

The potential.  Detroit has had some rough years, and still needs a lot of work, but there are so many people excited to help rebuild the city.  It is amazing being a part of the transformation.  That, combined with Detroit’s rich cultural past, a few successful sports teams, and the label of “Most Miserable City in America”, makes this city a very interesting  and cool place to be.

What do you hope to accomplish in your time with VFA?

Personally, I want to build a broad skill set that will allow me to build a successful company.  For Detroit, I want to build the entrepreneurship community and attract amazing startups and teams to the city.  As a part of VFA, I want to build Startup Effect into a sustainable organization that helps students build entrepreneurship skills and empowers them to be successful.

 

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.

Fellow Spotlight: Scott Lowe, Digerati

Name: Scott Lowe

Hometown: Muskogee, Oklahoma

University: University of Oklahoma ’12

Analyst, Digerati
Detroit, MI

 

What initially attracted you to Venture for America?

I loved that I would be learning the ins and outs of startups while still having a huge impact on the VFA company I would land at. I thought it seemed like the perfect transition for someone interested in becoming an entrepreneur, but not quite ready to take the plunge. I was right.

What is the best part of being a VFA Fellow?

The VFA community. The staff, Fellows, companies, board members, and supporters are all working towards a common goal: creating 100,000 jobs by 2025. Only with such a large fleet sailing in the same direction could we ever hope to accomplish such an audacious goal, and we’re going to do whatever it takes to get there.

ps: If you don’t know why we’re focusing on startups, then you should check out this recent study by the Kauffman Foundation.

 What does Digerati do?

Digerati builds custom software to solve problems. Some sample problems we’re tackling include Michigan’s brain drain and poor knowledge of business resources for entrepreneurs.

What’s a typical day at work like?

I think. Sometimes I’m thinking about how we should best organize pages on a website to make it more user-friendly or how well the software we’ve built meets our customers’ needs. Whatever needs thought about, really.

What’s the best thing about Detroit? 

Detroit gets a lot of negative press, but few realize how strong the sense of community is in this city. Detroiters say it feels more like a small town than a city, and I would definitely agree. I’ve never been in a place where there was a culture built around actually doing things. Don’t like something about Detroit? Do something about it.

What do you hope to accomplish in your time with VFA?

First and foremost, I want to be equipped with the knowledge, network, and drive to start a successful business after my fellowship. My personal goals during these two years include building something from scratch, raising money for a project, and solving a problem for Detroit.

Fellow Spotlight: Max Nussenbaum, Are You a Human

Name: Max Nussenbaum

Hometown: Newton, MA

University: Wesleyan University ’12

Advisory Facilitator of Strategic Partnership Systems Marketing, Management, and Analysis,
Are You a Human
Detroit, MI

What initially attracted you to Venture for America?

VFA was entirely different from any other post-college possibility I’d seen, and that was a great thing. There was something amazing about the opportunity to go do something completely new: to work for a company I’d never heard of, in a field I thought I’d never enter, in a city I’d never been to, surrounded by people I didn’t know before, as part of a program that hadn’t existed a year ago. The possibilities in that newness were intoxicating.

What is the best part of being a VFA Fellow?

The groupies. Definitely the groupies.

What does Are You a Human do?

Are You a Human creates quick branded minigames that replace CAPTCHA, the detested scourge of the internet. CAPTCHAs infuriate users, decrease submission rates, and are rumored to have been a contributing factor in Amy Winehouse’s death. PlayThru, our alternative, is so fun that one guy actually wrote us to say he sometimes plays them for fun.

What do you do on a typical day at work?

What don’t I do for my company? On a typical day, I might be writing the delightful copy for our new web site, creating hilarious company videos, conning my way into getting a phone call with the head developer at a major airline, partnering with sketchy Germans to help translate our latest games, and receiving jujitsu massage from the team of supermodel masseuses we keep on retainer. (Just kidding about the masseuses.)

What’s your favorite thing about Detroit?:

Detroit is like a small town in a big city—everyone seems to know everyone else, both within the start-up world and outside of it. Each morning the streets are filled with an eclectic mix of entrepreneurs, hipster artists, old-time Detroiters, and aggressive (but surprisingly polite) bums. Plus, rent is unbelievably cheap: my closet here is bigger than the apartments of everybody I know in New York combined.

What do you hope to accomplish in your time with VFA?

I hope to develop a network of close friendships that will last throughout this life and into the next one, to help Are You a Human become the most valuable company in world history, and to be singlehandedly responsible for Detroit’s transformation into America’s most populous city. Also, I hope to become better at setting realistic goals.

Fellow Spotlight:Gabby Bryant, Dandelion

Name: Gabby Bryant

Hometown: Detroit, MI

University: Harvard University ’12

Head of Community
Development, Dandelion
Detroit, MI

What initially attracted you to Venture for America?

I’m obsessed with Detroit. My obsession for the city is only rivaled by a need to be effective. Venture for America presents an opportunity to make real change in cities all over the US. By focusing on start-ups and broadcasting that young people work and live in these cities, VFA is starting a virtuous circle!

What is the best part of being a VFA fellow?

Getting exposure to people who have started their own businesses. The fact that they share their failures so openly, lets me know that mistake are not only alright, but they’re necessary to get where you want to be. Also the rest of the fellows are amazing!

What does Dandelion do?

Dandelion is a group made up of specialists in operations, strategy, and design, that solely serves community organizations on a sliding scale.

What do you do on a typical day at work?

I make a lot of calls to community organizations around Detroit. I talk about strategies about how to improve them by creating revenue streams, saving money, and branding/messaging. Then my boss and I debrief at the bar next door.

What’s your favorite thing about Detroit?:

The different type of experiences there are. Constraint is the mother of innovation and as much constraint that there is here, there is a spirit that is completely dedicated to improving the city.

What do you hope to accomplish in your time with VFA?

I hope to learn a lot about businesses and design. I want to have a wide range of skills that can help in running a business effectively.

Fellow Spotlight:
Gabby Bryant, Dandelion

Name: Gabby Bryant

Hometown: Detroit, MI

University: Harvard University ’12

Head of Community
Development, Dandelion
Detroit, MI

What initially attracted you to Venture for America?

I’m obsessed with Detroit. My obsession for the city is only rivaled by a need to be effective. Venture for America presents an opportunity to make real change in cities all over the US. By focusing on start-ups and broadcasting that young people work and live in these cities, VFA is starting a virtuous circle!

What is the best part of being a VFA fellow?

Getting exposure to people who have started their own businesses. The fact that they share their failures so openly, lets me know that mistake are not only alright, but they’re necessary to get where you want to be. Also the rest of the fellows are amazing!

What does Dandelion do?

Dandelion is a group made up of specialists in operations, strategy, and design, that solely serves community organizations on a sliding scale.

What do you do on a typical day at work?

I make a lot of calls to community organizations around Detroit. I talk about strategies about how to improve them by creating revenue streams, saving money, and branding/messaging. Then my boss and I debrief at the bar next door.

What’s your favorite thing about Detroit?:

The different type of experiences there are. Constraint is the mother of innovation and as much constraint that there is here, there is a spirit that is completely dedicated to improving the city.

What do you hope to accomplish in your time with VFA?

I hope to learn a lot about businesses and design. I want to have a wide range of skills that can help in running a business effectively.

Fellow Spotlight: Tim Dingman, Accio Energy

Name: Tim Dingman

Hometown: Sudbury, Massachusetts

University: Brown University ’11, ’12

Engineer, Accio Energy
Detroit, MI

 

 

What initially attracted you to Venture for America?

After the experiences of my undergraduate engineering career, I decided I was fully uninterested in a career in research. I wanted to combine my technical skillset with my organizational and creative abilities to make an immediate impact. With Venture for America, I knew I could fulfill my goals – at work and in my city.

What is the best part of being a VFA fellow?

The best part of being a VFA fellow is the other fellows. The other Detroit fellows are all my friends, and we have helped each other adjust to our new situations and surroundings with vigor. They impressed me during training camp, and I know we can use our talents to help rebuild our cities in the next two years.

What does Accio Energy do?

My company does wind power without blades or turbines. I can’t disclose much else, as we have patents pending and must keep the details of our technology secret.

What do you do on a typical day at work?

I have two jobs at work: one as a mathematical modeler of the physics of our technology, and one as a test engineer in our shop. Some days I sit at the computer running and analyzing simulations, and some days I run experiments and collect data. The key to working here, and at any startup, is flexibility.

What’s your favorite thing about Detroit?:

The best thing about Detroit is the communal spirit. Everyone knows Detroit has seen better days, but they know equally as well that we all have the power to change the city for the good. People here have a gritty pride about their city, and from what I’ve seen they want to help out in any way they can.

What do you hope to accomplish in your time with VFA?

In my two years, I hope to have a measurable impact on Detroit and to lock in business partners for any possible ventures. In the short term, impact might mean picking up trash or helping to construct an urban farm. In the longer term, though, I am open to the possibility of setting up shop here in the D.

Fellow Spotlight: Todd Nelson, NextEnergy

 

Name: Todd Nelson

Hometown: Winston-Salem, NC

University: Columbia University ‘12

 

 

New Market Services, NextEnergy
Detroit, MI

 

What initially attracted you to Venture for America?

I knew I wanted to be an entrepreneur in the clean energy economy after my junior year of college, but I needed to learn more about business fundamentals and get more real life and technical experience before starting my company. I also wanted to join a network of other people pursuing similar goals. Enter VFA, which was started the year I graduated. Great timing, perfect fit!

What is the best part of being a VFA fellow?

From a life standpoint – the other fellows. If you don’t believe me, try going out into the real world without a group of inspiring, helpful, interesting, and talented friends! It’s tough out here, but we’ve been here for each other in everything from near all-nighters during training camp, to move-in, to exploring a new city, and questions about a particular sector/task that were initially overwhelming.

From a career standpoint – Training Camp was invaluable in teaching me skills, coping mechanisms during stressful times, and recognizing my own strengths and weaknesses in the workforce. I’ve already relied on a lot I learned during those 5 weeks in my company so far – the ultimate measure of success.

And did I mention that VFA’s help throughout the company placement process resulted in multiple job offers from amazing start-up companies? That too.

What does NextEnergy do?

NextEnergy provides research, business development services, and testing platforms to existing Michigan companies to compete more effectively in the clean energy marketplace. We also help Michigan manufacturers map out the value chain, break into the clean technology market, and connect them to potential partners, investors, and buyers.

What do you do on a typical day at work?

I’m mostly doing research right now – which consists of marketplace analysis, supply-chain mapping, and one-on-one interviews with industry professionals. It’s perfect for me, coming into clean technology with a non-technical background, because I have to understand each piece of a technology from cradle to grave. Right now, I’m learning the ins and outs of multiple components of the energy economy, including vehicle electrification, energy storage, electricity generation and distribution, energy rules and regulations, electrical circuits/power electronics, and energy efficiency. I’m also helping out on the side with NextEnergy’s twitter account. And improving their auxiliary coffee delivery services (jk).

What’s your favorite thing about Detroit?:

Eastern Market, hands down. (http://www.detroiteasternmarket.com/) Do you like fresh, delicious, inexpensive, local food and a way to see all of the different faces of Detroit under the same roof? So do I!

And biking city streets with literally no cars on it – really nice compared to dodging taxis and tourists in NYC.

What do you hope to accomplish in your time with VFA?

From a knowledge standpoint – I want to learn the ins and outs of my industry and startups so that I’ll be well placed to start my company when the right idea pops into my head. While I’m biking home from work one day, of course. Just wait, it’s going to happen…

I’m also learning from the staff, the fellows, and the entrepreneurial community how to inspire people and get them excited about ideas that inspire me. That includes everything from public speaking, to simple communication of high-level ideas, to connecting with people from a variety of individual backgrounds. I want to be able to go out into the world – and not just pitch people about my idea – but get everyone I meet excited to work together to create the clean energy economy and a better world to live in. VFA (fellows, staff, company) has already started helping me learn and practice these skills, and I want to continue to do that over the following 2 years.

Fellow Spotlight: Derek Turner, Ambassador

 

Name: Derek Turner

Hometown: Phoenix, AZ

University: Columbia University ‘12

 

 

Community Ambassador, Ambassador
Detroit, MI

 

What initially attracted you to Venture for America?

I had been fascinated by Detroit for a year but I had no idea how I could get involved. I started considering doing a startup in Detroit, but didn’t have any good business ideas. As I was looking around at incubators in Detroit, I found out about VFA and it was obvious from the beginning that it was the perfect program for me. They connected all the dots – trained me (an anthropology and political science major) to be literate in business, connected me to a community of peers in my city, helped me find housing, found me a really rewarding job, introduced me to a mentor, and allowed me to be a part of something very new and exciting!

What is the best part of being a VFA fellow?

The best part of being a VFA fellow is being exposed to people (fellows, board members, mentors, etc) who believe that cities that other people have written off as failures can be brought back to prosperity. It’s so encouraging seeing all of these people working so hard for that idea and it allows me to have hope for the future of this country.

What does Ambassador do?

Ambassador is referral reward software that gives companies the ability to track and manage customer referrals. Since most companies who want to grow using referrals don’t have the technological expertise to track their customer’s behaviors online in order to reward them for referring friends, they can just subscribe to our service and we’ll do it for them.

What do you do on a typical day at work?

Right now I’m doing a lot of marketing and market research, so a typical day might have me writing an e-book or whitepaper, looking at our website analytics, reviewing customer behavior and needs, and brainstorming how we can reach new potential customers – of course with a ping pong game thrown in there. I love that I never do the same thing from day to day and I can help decide what’s important for the company to be doing at any given point.

What’s your favorite thing about Detroit?:

The surprises. Whether it’s the really hip bar in an abandoned neighborhood, the ribs and karaoke place at the Saturday market, or the pool on the roof of our apartment building, Detroit will always defy expectations in a great way.

What do you hope to accomplish in your time with VFA?

I want to be at least partially responsible for significant growth at Ambassador and economic prosperity in Detroit.