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.
More than 1300 Current Fellows and Alumni
More than 450 Company Partners
29% of Fellows have started businesses
Fellows have raised $250 million of investment capital
Our Team is made up of dedicated and passionate professionals working to cultivate the next generation of entrepreneurs and startup leaders.
Chief Executive Officer
Eric joined Venture For America as CEO after, most recently, serving as Vice President of Corporate and Civic Engagement at The Y in Central Maryland. While there, he led a portfolio of civic and corporate engagement initiatives across Central Maryland. His strategic focus included: advancing the brand and mission internally and externally; implementing leading practices to engage communities in civic activities; and curating experiences for corporations to feel connected and positively impact the people and communities where they work.
He joined The Y in 2012 as District Executive Director for the Weinberg and Druid Hill centers and was promoted to Executive Director of Volunteerism and Community Engagement in 2015. In these capacities he more than doubled The Y’s volunteer base from, secured in-kind donations valued at more than $2.5 million and tripled the number of corporate and civic partners.
Prior, and after several years traveling, volunteering, and interning abroad throughout Europe and Southeast Asia, he was sparked to begin a career in wellness. Upon returning to the Washington D.C./Maryland region he served in a pre-opening leadership role to open and operate several wellness and fitness facilities. Eric is an explorer, traveler, and someone deeply passionate about living a life enriched with mindfulness, wellness, and servant leadership. He received an undergraduate degree from the University of North Carolina Chapel Hill and a master’s degree in transformational leadership and social change from Maryland University of Integrative Health. He resides in Baltimore with his wife Nelle and volunteers as a board member for the Samaritan Community.
Chief Operating Officer
Director of Birmingham
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.
Director of St. Louis & Kansas City
Hailing from the great state of Ohio, Kate found her second home in St. Louis. (She’s moved there twice!) Kate studied music for many years before deciding to raise funds in support of more-talented artists. After a brief-stint in NYC, Kate returned to St. Louis as Director of Development for Saint Louis Fashion Fund where she also supported programming, coaching, and business development for emerging fashion entrepreneurs.
Before launching her career, Kate was a Heidelberg University Student Prince – one of the nation’s great mascots – and received her MA in Arts Administration and MBA from the University of Cincinnati.
Kate’s favorite things include libraries, volunteering with Ready Readers, the Cleveland Cavaliers, and quilting (well, attempting to anyway). She is excited to work with Fellows, companies, and community members in St. Louis and Kansas City!
Director of New Orleans
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.
Vice President of Company Partnerships
Born and raised in Philadelphia, Brandon moved to Miami in 2008 to study at the University of Miami and the city of Miami captivated him from the beginning. After graduating, he spent three years working in the Philadelphia startup ecosystem as a digital marketing consultant to some of the world’s biggest eCommerce brands like Kate Spade, Brooks Brothers and more before moving back to Miami in 2015 to work on the University of Miami’s Alumni Engagement team and to receive his Master’s degree from the Miami Business School.
Brandon joined VFA in 2019 as the Director of Miami and now serves as the VP of Company Partnerships, leading the organization’s company partnership strategy nationwide. In his spare time, he can be found cheering on his Miami Hurricanes at any opportunity he has, volunteering with United Way of Miami-Dade and the Greater Miami Chamber of Commerce, or aggressively quoting “The West Wing” and “Schitt’s Creek” to all who will listen. Visit him in Miami and the cafécito is on him!
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.
Director of Detroit
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, Mich. His 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 about the best Coney Island restaurants in Detroit.
Director of Strategic Partnerships
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.
Director of San Antonio
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.
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.
Director of Philadelphia
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.
Director of Pittsburgh
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.
Director of Charlotte
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.
Director of Tulsa
Mandi Ford Argo
Director of Northeast Ohio
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.
Senior Human Resources Manager
Though a Michigan Native, Victoria has called St. Louis home for the past six years while also having lived in Oklahoma and Chicago prior. As a proud Western Michigan University alumni, she was able to earn her BS in Exercise Science with a specialty in Cardiac Rehab. While earning her degree, she also competed on the WMU Track & Field Indoor/Outdoor team for two years.
After spending 3 years in Cardiac Rehab in both Oklahoma City and St. Louis, Victoria was presented with an opportunity to switch professions and find a new passion in Human Resource and Worker’s Compensation. Through this local 100% employee owned company, she would oversee Human Resources, Workers’ Compensation, and Safety for over 500 Union skilled individuals in commercial and residential contracting.
Outside of working hours, you can find Victoria with her husband and three children doing the many things St. Louis has to offer. Indulgences include red wine, craft beer, binge watching docuseries, and all facets of sports; specifically the Chicago Cubs and Detroit Red Wings!
With a philosophy that our community is only as good as the people that serve it, Victoria has dedicated herself to serving her community through volunteer work, services, and projects.
“We cannot seek achievement for ourselves and forget about progress and prosperity for our community” – Cesar Chavez
Senior Programs Associate
Natalia is the Senior Programs Associate. She joined Venture for America after serving as a Teaching English as a Foreign Language (TEFL) Volunteer for Peace Corps Ukraine. She is passionate about community development, cross-cultural communication, and foreign languages. Natalia graduated with a B.A. from Mercyhurst University with degrees in Socio-cultural anthropology & Russian studies, and earned a M.A. in International Relations from the University of Chicago.
Natalia lives in the greater Cleveland area, though has recently spent time in Chicago, IL., Mohyliv-Podilskyi, Ukraine, and Erie, PA. In her free time, she likes to try new recipes, explore the Cleveland Metroparks, learn new languages, and travel.
Senior Manager of Learning Programs
Tess Cardoza-Hawk is the Senior Manager of Learning Programs at VFA where she creates and manages programming for Fellows and Alumni. Before joining VFA, Tess worked in higher education designing training and leadership programming for college students and professional staff. Tess is passionate about curriculum and learning design and is excited to bring her skills to VFA. She graduated from Baldwin Wallace University with a B.A. in English Education and received her M.A. in College Student Personnel from Bowling Green State University. Tess is a proud Clevelander and outside of work you can find her baking, running a social justice book club, and spending time with her husband and their dog.
A born-and-raised Michigander, Katie graduated from the University of Kentucky with a degree in Integrated Strategic Communication before making her way to New York City in September 2019. She comes to Venture For America from Ad Age, an advertising industry publication, where she ran multichannel marketing campaigns for events, awards programs, custom projects, and anything else that popped up. While there she also helped manage a corporate social responsibility partnership that mobilized marketing and advertising leaders to move the needle on crucial industry issues such as family leave policy and workplace diversity.
In her free time, Katie is an active member of the Good Sports NYC Young Professional Board and a youth volleyball coach. She enjoys making “Books to Read” lists she will never finish, taking in the NYC skyline from the Hoboken waterfront, and exploring all the food that the city has to offer.
Vice President of Talent
MaryCatherine is the Vice President of Talent at VFA, where she oversees the recruitment and selection process for fellows, as well as internal staff hiring. Prior to joining Venture For America, MaryCatherine started her career as a Teach For America corps member and spent the last decade working in talent acquisition in the education sector. Most recently, she worked as a Managing Director of Recruitment for Teach For America where she led collegiate recruitment efforts in the Northeast, Midwest and South. She lives in the Baltimore region and is an avid cook, dinner party host and yoga enthusiast.
Director of Baltimore
Cory J. Anderson
Cory is originally from the great state of Michigan but has called Baltimore his second home for over 10 years. He is passionate about educating, empowering, and helping others make meaningful connections to further their goals. He is excited to bring that passion to VFA.
Cory is a graduate of Eastern Michigan University with a Bachelor of Business Administration in International Business and a Master of Arts in Higher Education / Student Affairs. He has spent much of his career in higher education and the nonprofit sector.
Since arriving in Baltimore, Cory has been engaged in volunteering in and around various neighborhoods within the city. What he loves most about Baltimore is that it is a major city with a small-town feel.
When not working, Cory enjoys spending time with his wife and daughter and his newfound love for spinning!
Finance and Accounting Manager
Brooke is born and raised in New England, residing mostly in New Hampshire. She fell in love with accounting/finance through her technical high school program and has pursued roles in accounting since 2009. She received her B.S in Accounting at Bryant University in Rhode Island in 2015. After three years as a Finance Manager, at a startup, she went on to complete her MBA in Finance at Southern New Hampshire University. Joining Venture for America has allowed her to mesh her business skills with her philanthropic efforts.
She has spent 2 years living in Uganda, Africa, working with various NGO’s and she is currently in the process of aiding the building of a school in a local village. She continues to volunteer as a Strategic Partnership Manager at Saint Ann Foundation, while empowering local Ugandans to develop skills to improve their quality of life. In her free time, she enjoys traveling to new countries, embracing new cultures and cuisines, plus reading from Reese Witherspoon’s book club list!
Strategic Partnerships Associate
Born and raised in a small, northern Ohio town, Cortland grew up with a drive for helping communities grow. She attended The University of Alabama where she graduated with a degree in Communication and Information Sciences. For four years, Cortland was a member of the Alabama Forensic Council, and a collegiate speech and debate team, that currently ranks 4th in the nation. With the forensic council, she spent her days studying economic inequality and DEI, and weekends presenting her research at colleges across the nation.
In June 2019, Cortland began her internship with Upriver Solutions, an upskilling placement company that provides unemployed Americans with jobs in the tech industry. In her time at Upriver Solutions, she worked in fundraising, which is the role that compelled her to work for Venture For America. Cortland currently lives in Tuscaloosa, Alabama, where she spends her free time volunteer-coaching for the Alabama Forensic Council and re-watching The Lord of the Rings.
Senior Selection Manager
Born and raised in Rocky Mount, NC, Michala’s love for psychology was bred in a general psych class in high school. She then went on to obtain her Bachelor’s degree in psychology from North Carolina Central University. It was during her time there that she became passionate about inequities in her community.
A passion for DEI led her to spend three years teaching Middle School English through Teach for America while obtaining her Master’s in applied (I/O) psychology from the University of Southern California. She has since joined the VFA team as a Selection Associate and is excited to continue her commitment to DEI.
In her spare time, Michala enjoys travel, media, trying new foods and activities, creating art, completing DIY projects, and designing areas of her home in Charlotte, NC.
Senior Onboarding Associate
A Cleveland native, avid traveler and chatty Cathy, Peter serves as the Senior Onboarding Associate for the Talent team here at VFA. Peter attended the University of Dayton where he got his first taste of the benefits of entrepreneurship, serving as the inaugural Director of Marketing and opening Heritage Coffeehouse, a craft coffee shop under the nation’s 4th largest student-run business. Upon graduation, Peter taught for two years as a second grade teacher back in the Buckeye neighborhood of Cleveland for Teach for America. In his most recent role, Peter was charged with the recruitment and management of the staffing function of 12 schools from substitutes up to school leadership!
In his free time, Peter enjoys exploring Cleveland’s immense brewery scene, traveling to visit friends and family and diving deep into Spotify’s New Music Friday and Discover Weekly. In this new role, Peter is excited to be able to build out an engaging and unmatched learning experience for incoming Fellows.
Director of Miami
Emani serves as the Community Director of Miami at VFA. For several years, Emani worked for City Year Miami, where he managed teams of AmeriCorps members who executed intervention programs in high-need middle and high schools. Those interventions focused on addressing poor attendance, behavior, and course performance in English and Math. As City Year Miami’s Learning and Development Manager, he developed deeply collaborative relationships with organizations across Miami to help train and educate the site’s 212 AmeriCorps members.
From there, Emani worked as the Assistant Director of the Center for Leadership and Service at Florida International University where he oversaw the student engagement portion of the university’s social innovation strategy. This included overseeing a civic engagement mini-grant awarded to students to help fund community service projects in Miami, as well as a social entrepreneurship competition where students could pitch ideas for social ventures and receive mentorship and funding opportunities from a diverse range of industry professionals.
Emani was the Miami Associate with the John S. and James L. Knight Foundation where he helped oversee a $4.7 million budget focused on building Miami’s innovation sector, then returned to higher education as Florida International University’s Director of Social Innovation and Entrepreneurship at StartUP FIU.
Emani is passionate about connecting marginalized communities to opportunities that stimulate long-term cultural and economic growth.
Founding and Managing Partner, Jacobs Asset Management
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