Institution-building through VFA with Ryan Cleary
Ryan Cleary ’17
Ryan Cleary’s interest in smart city technologies stems from a deep desire to build impactful solutions and processes that make life easier, more accessible, and more equitable. As a student at Case Western, his wish to build things had initially led him to declare a major in Mechanical Engineering. Over time, however, Ryan was able to refine this broader interest into a more focused desire – generating impact at the human level. In fact, by the time he graduated, Ryan had become an Economics and Political Science major juggling two of his own fledgling projects – a security drone company and a modular motion-sensor package meant to serve as a foundational tool for building out smart city grids.
Joining VFA after already being in the work force
After graduating, Ryan joined BioEnterprise, a nonprofit promoting and nurturing healthcare companies and bioscience technologies, on a whim for the summer while he worked on acquiring a role in the consulting industry. While at BioEnterprise, Ryan worked with startups every day to help them solve their myriad yet extremely important challenges. The experience made him realize that there were opportunities beyond consulting that didn’t fall victim to the constraints of different stakeholders with competing interests, or the established inertia of “this is how things work”. Ryan knew some VFA Fellows and a former VFA intern – he reached out to them and, as he learned more about the organization, determined that becoming a Fellow would provide exactly the kind of growth and career experience he was seeking.
Stimulating growth in San Antonio
As a Fellow, Ryan put a hold on both of his previous side projects, and decided to focus on making an impact. His current employer is The Learning Company, an incubator program training 2-year college students in entrepreneurship and innovation. As one of the early employees, Ryan helped to build the company from the ground up, and is now instrumental in ensuring that The Learning Company stimulates the local economy of San Antonio by investing in its residents. As the team has grown, so have Ryan’s responsibilities. To make sure that he was effectively managing his direct reports, and contributing to the growth of The Learning Company, Ryan is now pursuing a Master’s in Management through Harvard’s hybrid online/onsite program.
The idea behind The Learning Company is to help stimulate local economy by providing entrepreneurial training to people who are likely to keep living there. Additionally, it's about providing them with an education and tools that aren’t normally available unless you’re at a four-year university or have been in the workforce for a few years.– Ryan Cleary '17
His San Antonio side project
Somehow, Ryan’s also found the time to continue his own entrepreneurial endeavors! This past October, he co-founded FloatMe, a digital service combating predatory payday lending practices, with two co-founders he met during Startup Weekend in San Antonio.
“This tackles an issue I’m really passionate about, and which I see as having a detrimental effect on society and the ability of people to thrive.”