From VFA to MBA
Derek Turner, 2012 Fellow
While interning in DC during his senior year at Columbia University, Derek had a revelation that he wanted to work in an entrepreneurial environment after graduation. Nursing his budding obsession with Detroit, Derek was searching for ways to get involved in Detroit’s startup scene when he came across Venture for America. He knew right away that VFA was the right next step for him despite the fact that the website was only two weeks old.
An Early Hire in Detroit
As one of the inaugural Fellows in Detroit, Derek spent nine months at a marketing software company before accepting a role as Director of Business Development at Grand Circus, a company that delivers 10-week coding bootcamps, focusing on the skills most in demand, to address the disparity between Detroit’s tech workforce and the exploding demand for tech talent. Derek was the company’s first hire and helped them launch the business in September of 2013. Within two years Derek was promoted to VP of Operations which put him in charge of sales, hiring, and creating a great product for customers.
Grand Circus was everything I dreamed it would be. I was there from the beginning and I felt like I was building the company.
Supplementing Startup Skills in the Classroom
Hailing from Arizona, Derek knew that he eventually wanted to return to his home state to create jobs in his community. But Derek also knew that while the important lessons he learned at startups could not be replicated in a classroom environment, he lacked some of the principal skills, like accounting, that he would need to be successful in running something on his own. A formal business education was the perfect way to supplement his startup skills.
Derek applied and was accepted into the highly selective MBA program at Stanford University. His unconventional path gave him an edge in the classroom where he could share his experience with building a business from the ground up and, in turn, learn some of the fundamentals from those who came from a more traditional business background.
Creating Opportunities Where it Matters
Derek continues to build his network of potential investors and business partners all in service of his home state. With a life long goal of creating as many jobs as possible, Derek is the embodiment of VFA’s mission to create opportunities where it matters.