Venture For America is creating economic opportunity in American cities by mobilizing the next generation of entrepreneurs and equipping them with the skills and resources they need to create jobs.
We recruit recent graduates who are ambitious, diverse, and looking for a challenge with their careers. Our rigorous application and selection process makes sure we find Fellows who can add value on day one.
We connect recent college grads with jobs in startups, entrepreneurship-adjacent organizations, and early-stage companies. When our Fellows see someone building a business first-hand, it lets them see that they can, too.
Our Fellows explore opportunities in cities with emerging entrepreneurial ecosystems. The companies where they work contribute to job growth and economic progress in those cities and the Fellows become part of a new community.
Through our network of investors and industry experts, we support Fellows when they start their own companies. Even our Fellows who decide not to start companies are offered ongoing programming to keep them connected to our community.
The Power of Diversity
What we’ve created at VFA represents a unique community and opportunity. Our aim is to leave everything we touch better than we found it – with our Fellowship stronger and the entrepreneurship industry more diverse, inclusive, and welcoming.
RISE is a coalition of diversity, equity, and inclusion resource groups for Fellows and Alumni. RISE exists to empower, provide opportunities, and create a formal space for members of our community who identify as members of underrepresented groups in entrepreneurial and innovation communities.
Operation 3 to 300
An initiative to help 300 women and racial and ethinc minorities become entrepreneurs over a three year period. This effort is fueled by the generous support of UBS and Uber.
Diversity of Fellowship Cohorts
For our Fellows, we are an onramp into careers in innovation, technology, and entrepreneurship, particularly for communities that have been historically underrepresented in these industries.
Our Support for Black Lives - Coming Soon
DEI Audit from Yardstick - Coming Soon
DEI Implementation Plan - Coming Soon
More than 1200 Current Fellows and Alumni
More than 450 Company Partners
29% of Fellows have started businesses
Fellows have raised $170M of investment capital
Our Team is made up of dedicated and passionate professionals working to cultivate the next generation of entrepreneurs and startup leaders.
Senior Director, Company Partnerships
Chief Operating Officer
Rick is a Jersey boy who has been visiting the Big Apple his entire life. After falling in love with his economics and finance class at Oratory Preparatory High School, Rick decided to pursue his B.S and MBA in Finance and graduated from Fairleigh Dickinson University with both degrees in May 2018. Rick joined Venture For America as a Finance Intern in January before becoming a Finance Associate full time in June of 2018.
When he is not crunching numbers for VFA, you can find him on the soccer field or on a basketball court attempting to stay fit. As a super fan, Rick spends most of his time watching, playing, or obsessing over sports. He also enjoys traveling to foreign countries, studying mythology, and drinking Snapple.
Birmingham Community Director
Abby decided to move to Birmingham for a second time in January 2017. After living in Boston, Las Vegas, and San Francisco, the South was calling her back and the energy and momentum she found in Birmingham was amazing!
Abby came to VFA from a career in higher education fundraising and most recently leading a community-wide U.S. Department of Labor grant program, Innovate Birmingham, focused on workforce development in the technology sector in Birmingham. She has lead fundraising teams at UAB, Harvard University, the University of Nevada Las Vegas, and of University of California Berkeley and an Innovate Birmingham team employed by 4 different partner organizations. She’s raised millions in support of organizational priorities and managed program budgets of more than $6 million.
Abby is a native of Auburn, AL (War Eagle!), attended Vanderbilt University (Anchor Down!) for her Bachelor’s and received her MA in Counseling and MBA from the University of Alabama at Birmingham (UAB – Go Blazers!). As Director of Birmingham, she is excited to work with Fellows, Alumni, and Company Partners, and lead VFA’s efforts in Birmingham.
Vice President of Community Partnerships
Carrie Murphy was born and raised in Cleveland. After graduating from Syracuse University with a degree in Public Policy and Strategic Management she decided to move to New York City. Her first job was working for the startup The Ladders where she began her career in recruiting. From there, she went into retained executive search working at a boutique firm, Daversa Partners, where she placed executives across the C-Suite for high-growth, venture-backed companies.
This is when she realized the positive impact startups and disruptive technology can have on the economy and global population. In 2015, Carrie decided it was time to move back to her hometown and became the Director of HR and Talent Acquisition at a series B technology company, Vertical Knowledge. There she saw the company nearly double in size from 35 – 65+ employees and helped with not only identifying and retaining the best talent but also figuring out the processes needed in order to successfully scale the business. Carrie found herself inspired to want to help Northeast Ohio attract the best talent and further help the startup ecosystem grow and thrive. That lead her to join the VFA team as the Director of Northeast Ohio where she helped expand VFA’s footprint and impact locally and, now, beyond.
St. Louis & Kansas City Community Director
New Orleans Community Director
Andrew is a sazerac connoisseur, burgeoning culinary critic, weekend mechanic, and a native New Orleanian.
In 2014, he graduated from Loyola University New Orleans where he studied philosophy. Figuring one degree wasn’t enough he went to the London School of Economics and left with an MSc in philosophy and public policy. Andrew joined VFA as a ‘16 Fellow and spent his time working as an Executive Analyst at Lucid, in New Orleans. There he worked directly for the CEO and engaged in a host of projects ranging from product marketing to financial forecasting to office design. Being able to quickly fix any and everything earned him the name MacGyver (he admits he gave himself the name).
At Lucid, he realized that he wanted to help grow the entrepreneurial ecosystem of New Orleans. As the Director of New Orleans, he’s excited to continue growing the VFA footprint.
Vice President, Strategic Partnerships
Ali Garber was born and raised in Philadelphia. After graduating from the University of Hartford with a degree in public relations and marketing, Ali joined the Jewish Federation in Young Leadership and grew up in the system progressing in fundraising and community building roles over the last decade. Through that work, Ali was responsible for raising more than $200 million annually for hungry and oppressed people across the globe from some of the most generous philanthropists in the world. Ready for a change and recognizing that there was an altruistic way to make a real impact on the future right in her own city, Ali enthusiastically joined Team VFA.
A chronic overcommiter, Ali volunteers a lot and tends to keep herself rather busy. Much of her time is currently committed to The Philadelphia School (where her side hustle is an underground t-shirt business she runs with a co-founder). In her free time, Ali enjoys cooking, entertaining, playing mahjong, and convincing people to join Rent the Runway Unlimited. She spends a large amount of time at birthday parties for the under 7 crowd and lives in Center City with her husband, their daughter Milly and their dog, Gracie.
Miami Community Director
Director of Programs
Julia Kortberg is the Director of Programs at VFA, where she oversees Training Camp and the Accelerator. Prior to that, she supported Fellow Founders as the Entrepreneurship Program Manager, provided Fellow support to five VFA Markets, supported Training Camp operations, and served as Interim Director of Detroit. A graduate of the University of Michigan and a 2016 VFA Fellow, Julia enjoyed wearing multiple hats as employee #2 at the Small Giants Community, where she supported seasoned entrepreneurs in their growth as values-driven leaders.
After her Fellowship, she started the Touring with Purpose project where she visited 30+ companies with great workplace cultures in 8 states and wrote about them. In addition to company culture, Julia is passionate about wine and often hosts tastings for friends, Fellows, and clients. She lives in Detroit and is thrilled about the opportunity to infuse her background in leadership development with supporting VFA Fellows and Founders.
Detroit Community Director
Sarah was born and raised in Southeast Michigan and has lived in Detroit for the last 10 years. Sarah started her career as a community organizer working with Detroit students and families on issues related to education and youth violence prevention. She has also worked at Detroit SOUP, the Michigan Municipal League and most recently created the Let’s Detroit talent retention and attraction platform while at the Detroit Regional Chamber. Sarah has a master’s degree in public administration from Wayne State University and a bachelor’s degree from Eastern Michigan University.
Sarah lives in Southwest Detroit where she is active in her community and serves on a few local boards. While not at work, she spends her time learning new things and hanging out with friends and family around the city.
Vice President, Finance and Human Resources
Betsye Moon Park
Director of Marketing
Keenan’s first run in with entrepreneurship was working – as a janitor, cashier and stock boy – in his grandfather’s haircare store in Flint, Michigan. His eventual winding career path took him from an environmental nonprofit to leading day-to-day marketing efforts at Crain’s Detroit Business, a weekly business publication. During this time, he also served as the co-director of outreach for Detroit Homecoming, an initiative that brings influential ex-Detroiters back home to reinvest in their hometown.
He’s a graduate of Michigan State University, and aside from a two-year stint in New York City for graduate school and six-month foreign exchange in an Austrian village, Keenan prides himself on being a Detroiter through and through. He spends his free time watching anime, getting into roundabout arguments about sports, attending concerts and dispelling myths that the best Coney Island restaurants in Detroit are Lafayette and American.
Senior Manager, Entrepreneurship
Julia is the Senior Manager of Programs, helping to support Fellows on their entrepreneurship journey. As a 2017 Fellow, she spent her fellowship at The City Club of Cleveland, a civic non-profit, supporting the production of over 100 forums a year on community and current affairs.
She has also held roles on VFA’s City Leadership Council and National Alumni Board prior to joining HQ. Originally from Toronto, Ontario, Julia grew up in Michigan and attended the University of Michigan. She studied Environmental Studies and Business. Her time in Ann Arbor jump-started a slew of interests including yoga, music (she was a radio DJ), and riding her bike. You can find Julia in Cleveland enjoying sunshine, bad puns, or a large bowl of pasta.
Director of Strategic Partnerships & Baltimore Community Director
Emma Simpson is a Baltimore-native with a passion for social enterprise. She attended the University of Edinburgh in Scotland where she earned her MA in International Relations. Throughout college, Emma spent her summers interning at a Baltimore nonprofit focused on community development, organizing, and capacity building in emergent Baltimore neighborhoods.
These summers laid the foundation for a rewarding career in Baltimore’s nonprofit sector, specifically supporting nonprofit startup organizations. Before joining VFA, she spent two years as the Operations & Development Manager at Improving Education, supporting the organization development and finance work, as well as managing its Bedtime in a Box and Learning in a Box programs. Emma lives in Baltimore’s Remington neighborhood and is the Treasurer of her neighborhood association.
San Antonio Community Director
A native Texan, Sarah has called San Antonio home since 2011 and earned her B.B.A. in Entrepreneurship at the University of Texas at San Antonio (UTSA). She is a co-founder of the UTSA Elevator Pitch Competition and Oxyvo, a biomedical device startup with a proof-of-concept called Peak Pal. These experiences piqued and continued her interest in entrepreneurial education in roles at Launch SA, The Learning Company at Alamo Colleges District, and the City of San Antonio Economic Development Department’s Small Business Office. She has led countless programs, operations and campaigns to support entrepreneurs in all stages of their journey. Her consultation and advisement to local start-ups like EEVET, Inc., The Health Cell, The Friendly Cycle, MoveIt SA, Chef Junction, Spirit Halloween, and more can be attributed to countless wins for the San Antonio entrepreneurship community.
Sarah has also served on the City of San Antonio’s Zoning Commission, and continues to sit on the Palo Alto College’s Business Management Advisory Committee and Entrepreneurship Support Organization (ESO) advocating for small business concerns. Sarah looks forward to expanding the Venture For America Fellow network throughout the San Antonio entrepreneurship community.
When she takes a break you can find her spending time with her daughter, whipping up a new recipe, or growing organic produce in her family’s garden.
Vice President of Programs
Alyson is the Director of Programs, helping Fellows become startup leaders during their two-year Fellowship. Alyson is passionate about learning and organizational development. She’s previously worked as a program manager at a startup in Birmingham, Alabama and as an instructional designer for a global medical device company.
She graduated from the Lee Honors College at Western Michigan University with a B.A. in english and is currently completing her masters in communication management from the University of Alabama at Birmingham with an interest in instructional and organizational communication. Alyson recently moved to Detroit with her family after spending seven years starting her career in Birmingham.
Senior Talent Associate
Realé serves as the Senior Talent Associate at VFA. Prior to joining the team she served as both a teacher and a staff member at Teach For America Memphis. She graduated from the University of Alabama with a bachelors and masters in marketing. Although she has spent more than 10 years in the Southeast, she is a Midwest girl at her core being born and raised in Madison, Wisconsin. When she’s not working you can find her traveling the world in search of the perfect meal, playing pop hits on her viola or cheering on the Tide.
Starting out as one of the first social media producers for Univision Radio in San Antonio, Bonnie was on the ground floor of the burgeoning digital movement of the early aughts.
For more than a decade, she has used her vast skill sets to run digital marketing campaigns in radio and entertainment, law, and events. Since moving to New York City, by way of the University of Michigan, Bonnie has lent her talents to the likes of Opera Hispánica, Luna Park in Coney Island, and Comedy Central.
In her spare time, Bonnie has volunteered for Housing Works and sang in her church choir. She also enjoys Netflix-binging, Instagramming, sports, movies in the park, and karaoke.
Philadelphia Community Director
Gulsun (Gu) serves as the Philadelphia Community Director at VFA. She joined after working at Sponsors for Educational Opportunity, where she supported more than 75 low-income, college students of color, from New York City & San Francisco, to successfully graduate from top-tier colleges throughout the US.
Gu is a proud social worker and community organizer. For the past nine years she been in the field of education and social services throughout the Northeast and Mid-Atlantic regions of the United States. In 2011, she graduated from the University of New Hampshire with a double major in Political Science & Social Work and a double minor in Women’s Studies & Race, Culture, Power. Immediately after, Gu served two years with City Year Greater Philadelphia, as both a corps members and project leader, at a public high school in West Philadelphia. Her years of service supporting young people inspired her to obtain her Masters in Social Work from the University of Pittsburgh in 2014, where she concentrated in Community, Organizing, and Social Action and was a Fellow at Pitt’s Center on Race & Social Problems.
Gu is proud to be Turkish-American and the eldest daughter of a Turkish immigrant who started their own exporting, importing, and warehousing business of organic dried fruits and nuts in both the United States and Turkey. Outside of work, you can catch Gu planning her next travel adventure, taking on a new fitness challenge, listening to all of Brene Brown’s podcasts on repeat, and having nonstop convos about various social justice topics.
Company Partnerships Manager
Tyler hails from the great state of Michigan, where he was born, raised, and educated. He started his professional career as an AmeriCorps member with the education-based non-profit City Year. After serving two years, he became a full-time staff member at City Year, working in program management and event planning. He later moved into the higher education sector, working in Alumni Relations. Tyler has a bachelor’s degree from Albion College.
Tyler lives in Ann Arbor, MI, with his wife and son, but has recently spent time living in Boston and Philadelphia. While not at work, he enjoys spending time with his son Ezra, cooking, all things football, and playing video games.
Finance & Accounting Associate
Desi was born and raised in Las Vegas, Nevada. She ended up finding herself at the University of Michigan-Ann Arbor—where she majored in Economics. Throughout that experience, Desi developed a passion for quantitative analysis and financial/economic development. She aspires to be impactful and a part of a mission that creates more opportunity for underserved communities.
Desi loves to connect with people beyond the surface. From her experiences abroad, she has been able to see that there is more to who we are than what we may ever know. She is a deep-thinker and considers herself to be quite eccentric. Sometimes a conversation with Desi is more than just words—it is an experience. She is excited to get to know who people are and values the connections that come from it.
Pittsburgh Community Director
Originally from Wisconsin, Jenny is a graduate of the University of Wisconsin-Madison where she found a love for entrepreneurship. Jenny founded two startups in the suitability industry before joining the Venture For America class of 2016. As a Fellow, Jenny helped provide entrepreneurial education to the Pittsburgh community as Program Director at Ascender, a hub for business starters and builders. While at Ascender, Jenny helped produce the annual Thrival Festival, an event that explored the intersection of humans and technology over multiple days of innovation programing and an outdoor music festival.
Before joining the VFA team, Jenny served as Business Dev. Director for local virtual reality startup, EKTO VR. As the Pittsburgh Community Director at VFA, Jenny explores her passion for helping entrepreneurs by bringing young talent to the city.
Inside and outside of work, Jenny enjoys planning gatherings and events for loved ones and the community including outdoor movie screenings, craft nights, and co-working afternoons.
Charlotte Community Director
Kyle grew up near Minneapolis, MN and made stops along the way in Nashville, TN and Boulder, CO before moving to Charlotte, NC in 2013. Kyle started his career in civic engagement at Davidson College, where he advised students and partnered with faculty, staff, and local nonprofits to drive community change efforts. He has also worked in fundraising and communications at College Advising Corps, a national college access organization, and most recently at Make-A-Wish Central & Western NC.
Kyle earned his bachelor’s degree in psychology from Gustavus Adolphus College and master’s degree in counseling & student personnel from Minnesota State University, Mankato. He lives in Charlotte with his partner Emily and cat Juniper and also serves on the board of the Young Affiliates of the Mint. Kyle is an avid concertgoer, excessive coffee drinker, Minnesota Timberwolves fan, and part-time runner.
Tulsa Community Director
Mandi Ford Argo
Northeast Ohio Community Director
Angelica Dandridge was born in Philadelphia and raised in Columbus, Ohio. Her time spent at Spelman College, where she earned a degree in music, is where she discovered her love for arts management and entrepreneurship. After completing her masters program in Non Profit Arts Management at George Mason University, she was recruited to manage an emerging leaders and entrepreneurship program for a non profit sponsored by Wells Fargo returning her familiar ground in Atlanta, GA.
From there, she expanded her footprint in the city by re-connecting with and ultimately working for Spelman College serving a variety of roles from strategic planning to institutional advancement, while also piloting an Arts Management & Entrepreneurship curriculum track for the Fine Arts Department. She also spent time consulting for a startup in the entertainment industry. When a life event relocated her back to Northeast, Ohio in 2018, she continued to nurture her passion for merging innovation with impact in her area which ultimately led to her assuming the role as Director of Northeast Ohio. Angelica is most inspired by the impact emerging leaders have on entrepreneurship and community growth and is beyond thrilled to connect her love of strategic planning and community partnerships with student mentorship through the vital work of VFA in Northeast Ohio and at-large.
Co-CEO and Co-Founder, ListenFirst Media
Founder and Investor
Managing Partner at BFY Capital and Founder of Plum Organics
Co-Managing Shareholder for the Miami Office of Greenberg, Traurig, P.A.
Investor, Director, Advisor
Deputy Head of Ultra High Net Worth, Americas Wealth Management, UBS
Executive Vice President and General Counsel of HRS Management, LLC
Founder & Co-Chairman of The Crypton Companies
Partner, Davis Polk & Wardwell LLP
CEO & Founder, TheraNest
Co-Founder & CEO, Calyx Health
Executive Director, 80/20 Foundation
Co-Founder, Gilt & Co-Founder, Glamsquad
Partner, Union Square Ventures
CEO, Tikun Olam USA
Co-Founder & CEO, Tech Talent South
Managing Director, Timberline Investments
President & CEO, JungleDisk
Chief Customer Officer, CM Group
Executive Director, ProsperUS Detroit
General Partner, Flybridge Capital Partners
Partner, Thrive Capital
Co-Founder, Launch Pad
Assistant Dean of Strategic Initiatives and Director of the Baiada Institute, Drexel University's Charles D. Close School of Entrepreneurship
Co-Founder and Community Experience Design Lead, City Innovations at Ford Motor Company
Co-Founder & Managing Director, Cultivation Capital
Vice President, Coefficient Capital
Director of Entrepreneurship, Propeller
Vice President, Global Executive Recruitment, American Express
Co Founder & Managing Diretor, Packard Place & Queen City Fintech
Executive Chairman, HackerU
Program Director, Baltimore, The Harry and Jeanette Weinberg Foundation
CEO, Campus Apartments
Founder, Warby Parker
President, Innovation Depot
Co-Founder, Chairman & CEO, Duo Security and General Manager, Cisco
Co-Founder & COO, KODE Labs
Co-Founder, The Lola
Co-Founder and General Partner, Hustle Fund
Vice President, Cintrifuse
Chairman, Tracy and Evan Segal Family Foundation
Senior Vice President of Strategy and Partnerships, Detroit Regional Partnership
Partner, Simpson Thacher & Bartlett LLP
Founder & CEO of G Klein & Associates
Co-Founder and former Chairman & CEO, Rackspace
President, Chief Operating Officer, and Co-Founder, Spring Mountain Capital, LP
Managing Partner, Tamar Equities Group
Advisor, START Columbus
Senior Vice President, CBRE
Director of Community Innovation, Forward Cities
Director of Entrepreneurship, Rocket Community Fund
Chief Strategy Officer, Advance
Co-Founder, Breakthrough Birmingham & Partner, Thrive Capital
Co-Managing Shareholder for the Miami Office of Greenberg, Traurig, P.A.
Director of Entrepreneurship, Idea Foundry
Managing Director, Belzberg & Co.
Managing Director, Iconica Partners
Executive Chairman, LinkedIn
CFO & Business Strategist, Zehnder Communications
Founder and President, mbaMission
Founder and Managing Partner, Cammack Associates LLC
Partner, First Round Capital
Co-Founder & CEO, Birchbox
Executive Director, Innovate Charlotte and Founder, goodmortgage.com
Associate Vice President for Research, University of Michigan Tech Transfer Center
Partner, 3L Capital
Senior Program Officer, William Davidson Foundation
Co-Founder & Co-CEO, Workit Health
Co-Founder, Geekdom & Geekdom Media
Principal, Gries Consulting
Managing Director – Wealth Management, Private Wealth Advisor, UBS
Retired CEO, AscendU
Chief Operating Officer & Chief Strategy Officer, The Pohlad Companies
President and CEO, Cyanco
General Manager, Miami & Lead, Latin America, CIC
Co-Founder & CEO, Active Capital
Founder & CEO, Lucid
Managing Director, Invest Detroit Ventures
Global Head of Operations, WeWork Labs
Founder, Eleven James
Managing Director & CTO, Falfurrias Capital Partners and Co-Founder & Director, DealCloud
Founder, Pillar Capital Advisors
Startup Evangelist, University of Cincinnati
President, Signature Financial Planning
Chairman & CEO, First Bank
Enterprise Sales, Investor, Advisor
Co-Founder & CEO, Ash & Erie and 2013 VFA Fellow
Founder & CEO, Myself Belts
Co-Founder and Partner, Seawall Development
Founder and CEO, b7 Properties
CEO & Founder, Fleetio
Founder & CIO, The Incite Foundry
President and Founder, Portus Wealth Advisors
VP for Community Engagement, Duquesne University
General Partner and Co-Founder, Landmark Ventures
Founder and Principal, The Equity Project Charter School