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: Mehves Tangun, Brown University



Name:  Mehves Ofelya Tangun

Hometown: Istanbul, Turkey

University: Brown University ’13

Major: Engineering & Economics


What led you to apply for Venture for America?

After taking my first entrepreneurship class at Brown University I realized that I really enjoyed drafting business plans and pitching to investors. My entrepreneurship professor Danny Warshay introduced me to VFA. With his advice I decided to apply.

What were you doing when you found out you were accepted?

It was during my spring break when I was in Istanbul, Turkey, suffering from a horrible jetlag. So I was up at 3 am checking my emails in my bed when I received the email from Andrew Yang. At that moment, all it said was: “Let the celebrations begin”. It was a memorable week!

Now that you’re a Fellow, what are you most excited about with regard to VFA? What do you hope to accomplish?

I am very excited to be thrown out of my element and out of my comfort zone so that I could push myself in every project I undertake. As Andrew Yang said: “People spend money and time educating the market for consulting and finance. The theory is you must become a baller before you come back and change the world”. Even though we laugh to this statement, which is said with a touch of sarcasm by Yang; I would like to be trained for the startup sector and I believe Venture for America is the right place for it. So far this is all I want to accomplish- gaining knowledge and experience after a “baller” training.

If you had to live one place for the rest of your life, where would you choose? Barcelona (minus the crisis)

Best thing about Brown:  You are the master of your time!

Favorite Book: The Unbearable Lightness of Being- Milan Kundera

Favorite childhood TV show: Rocko’s Modern Life and The Smurffs

Favorite meal: Dinner

Favorite holiday: Thanksgiving- even though I was introduced to it very recently, I cannot get over the food!

Best class you’ve ever taken: Entrepreneurship and Innovation by Danny Warshay

Favorite movie quote: “Do not be afraid to let go or forget… Because in reality, all that matters never leaves us…” –Mine Vaganti (Loose Cannons)

Favorite thing to do on Sunday: Sunday BRUNCH!

Favorite entrepreneur: Wolfgang Puck or Mario Batali (Going back and forth between the two)

Favorite cereal: Cinnamon Toast Crunch

Most worn article of clothing: Beige Scarf

Favorite sports team: The Celtics

Best trip you’ve ever been on: To the region of Cotes du Provence for wine tasting.

Favorite historical figure: Ataturk- The Great Turkish Leader who brought Democracy to Turkey

Accomplishment you’re most proud of: Opening a bakery from scratch in a small town called Chepkanga in Kenya.

UBS Americas Pledges $1.2 Million to VFA


Today, we are thrilled to announce a new partner and supporter: UBS Americas.

Over the next three years, UBS will invest $1.2 Million to support two core VFA program areas: education and training.

In addition to becoming the primary supporter of the Venture for America Fellow Training Camp at Brown University over the next three years, UBS will give VFA access to its resources and expertise.

In the press release from UBS, CEO Bob McCann spoke about their newest partnerships, which also includes a $100,000 commitment to American Corporate Partners, a nonprofit organization dedicated to assisting veterans in their transition from the armed services to the civilian workforce.

“Our announcement today underscores UBS Americas’ vision of creating a stronger America where everyone has the opportunity to fulfill their potential and achieve financial independence,” said McCann. “Venture for America and American Corporate Partners have clear mandates to take actionable steps at the very heart of what it will take to get the American economy going again – with two important bastions of our future: the next generation of entrepreneurs and our veterans. That makes them the ideal partners for our mission.”

We could not be more excited to be working with UBS as part of their Revitalizing America initiative.

Different Cities Do Different Things


VFA Founder Andrew Yang on how cities tend to breed companies that solve the problems of their region

By Andrew Yang (originally published in the Huffington Post)

When I visited Cincinnati I met with a company called General Nano – they manufacture a carbon nanotube material that can be used to make planes more resistant to lightning strikes. The U.S. Navy is an investor through the Office of Naval Research. The military comes through Cincinnati in part because G.E. Aviation, which manufactures airplane components, is in the city.

General Nano is an example of a company that would be unlikely to be founded in, say, New York. If you look at the latest wave of New York startups (e.g., Rent the Runway, Warby Parker, Foursquare, Gilt Groupe, Etsy, Kickstarter, etc.) they tend to capitalize on New York’s existing industries (e.g., fashion, retail, etc.). Cities tend to produce startups that are either solving their problems or building on existing strengths.

Other companies in Cincinnati include The Brandery, a startup accelerator that emphasizes brand building, and Blackbook HR, a software solution to help corporations integrate employees into the community and help them feel more rooted. Both of these were born in the shadow of Procter and Gamble, the consumer products giant that is perhaps Cincinnati’s most prominent corporate anchor. In this case, both branded innovation and employee satisfaction are issues of interest to the established organizations of the region.

You can see the same phenomena in other cities. New Orleans is a haven for education reform as the only city in the U.S. where more than half of all public school children attend charter schools. Also in New Orleans are 4.0 Schools, a design lab for education innovation, and Kickboard, an analytics and student tracking software company for teachers.

Baltimore, the home of Johns Hopkins University, has a cluster of innovative health tech companies such as Reify Health, which uses mobile technology to improve and measure medical treatments. Reify Health was started by four Johns Hopkins medical and graduate students who left school to start the company. Baltimore also has cyber security start-ups, like Riskive, that benefit from the city’s proximity to Fort Meade and US Army Cyber Command. Cleveland has companies like Linestream, which provides next-generation motor controls to save energy and money for appliances, and Maker Gear, which sells 3-D printers, in sync with the city’s robust manufacturing base.

There’s an overly simplistic notion that Silicon Valley is the only place for technology companies to thrive. We all remember Facebook moving out West in ‘The Social Network.’ But even Mark Zuckerberg said in 2011, “If I were starting now, I would have stayed in Boston” and advocated “You don’t have to move out here to do this.”

The problems that you see startups tackling are dramatically different in different cities. Silicon Valley is unlikely to produce the same set of companies as New York or Cleveland because the region has a different set of strengths and defining institutions. We need people building companies all over the country to innovate in aviation, consumer products, education, health, cybersecurity, biotech, manufacturing, and everything in between.

Fellow Spotlight: Brian Bosché, Bizdom


Name: Brian Bosché

Hometown: Newport Beach, California and Bozeman, Montana


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.


Summer Celebration: Last Chance to Get Advanced Tickets!


There’s less than 48 hours left to get your Advanced Tickets to the 2013 VFA Summer Celebration. Prices go up tomorrow, May 1st, at 11:59 pm. If you’re planning on buying tickets, now’s the time!

Advanced Tickets (Until May 1st at 11:59pm): $250
General Admission Tickets (After May 1st): $300
VIP Tickets: $1000

Get your tickets today!

In addition to our already impressive list of guests, our newest confirmed VIP attendees include:

Lauren Zalaznick, Executive Vice President of NBCUniversal
Mike Perlis, CEO of Forbes
Cyrus Massoumi, CEO and Co-founder of ZocDoc

We hope to see you there!

VFA is coming to Philly

Venture for America is excited to announce that we’re sending Fellows to Philadelphia in 2013!


In 2012, we announced our expansion to Baltimore and Cleveland, and are thrilled to add Philadelphia as our 8th VFA city.

With its ever-expanding startup ecosystem, our nation’s oldest and largest multi-institutional research park, and established venture capital community, Philadelphia is a natural fit for VFA. In addition to our original five cities, Detroit, New Orleans, Providence, Cincinnati, and Las Vegas, the Class of 2013 is excited to have the opportunity to hit the ground running as the first Philadelphia Fellows.

For companies in Philadelphia interested in hiring a VFA Fellow, please fill out our company application form.

Fellow Spotlight: Astrid Schanz-Garbassi, Middlebury College



Name:  Astrid Schanz-Garbassi

Hometown: Larchmont, NY

University: Middlebury College ’13

Major: Physics


What led you to apply for Venture for America?

In January 2012 I invited myself to VFA’s New York offices. The (then much smaller) team graciously accommodated the intrusion and enthusiastically shared what they were working on. Their passion for the program was totally contagious and I knew I had to get in on it. Also, they were offering a continued education, a chance to make an impact on a cool young company and an off the beaten path city, a new friend group, and to pay me for all of this. Yes, please!

What were you doing when you found out you were accepted?

I was alone in my office at my last job. To this day I wonder how many people saw (and judged) my solo celebration dance through the windows…

Now that you’re a Fellow, what are you most excited about with regard to VFA? What do you hope to accomplish?

Every single person I’ve met through VFA, whether a Fellow, founder, or year-round staffer, is incredible. I’m excited to continue to meet mind-blowing individuals and to be able to call them mentors and friends. I hope to learn voraciously and love every day at work … and to become a diehard fan of all teams in whichever city I land in. Sorry NY.

Best thing about Middlebury College:  Everything. But specifically being surrounded by mountains, eating unrestricted quantities of (local!) ice cream in the dining halls, and the fact that no matter where you are or what you’re doing, when the song “Like a Prayer” comes on you have to take your shirt off (a true Middlebury tradition).

Favorite Book: Pillars of the Earth. Stop reading this and go read that!

Favorite childhood TV show: Wild Thornberrys. Apparently they made a movie!? If you have any interest in (or can be bribed into) seeing it with me, please call ASAP.

Favorite meal: Anything you can eat with chopsticks.

Favorite holiday: Pi day!

Best class you’ve ever taken: “Education in America.” Professor Affolter, you are an amazing and inspiring human being. Your final project prompt, “design your own school,” was the best assignment I’ve ever had the pleasure to pour time into!

Favorite movie quote:  Every line in “Airplane!” Is that a cop out? Okay, for real: “People call those imperfections, but no, that’s the good stuff.” –Goodwill Hunting

Favorite thing to do on Sunday: Round up some good friends and take off for an extraordinarily long and arduous hike. Then retreat, with the same good friends, to extraordinarily comfortable chairs to nurse our aching legs (and some delicious hot drinks).

Favorite entrepreneur: Andrew Yang.

Favorite cereal: Honey Bunches of Oats with “real” bananas and vanilla almond milk, eaten from a grimy camping bowl before a long bike ride.

Most worn article of clothing: My running shoes.

Favorite sports team: Purple Haze—the recreational basketball team I played on in High School with all of my (rather short) best friends. Undefeated four years in a row! Take that, Pink Ladies.

Best trip you’ve ever been on: The bike tour I led around the coast of Nova Scotia with Stephen Coles, the best “co” I could ever ask for (hey Scoles, miss you!). 1,000 miles, 20 amazing high schoolers, very heavy panniers and countless jars of Nutella added up to six of the best weeks of my life.

Favorite historical figure: Gertrude Stein

Accomplishment you’re most proud of: Relationships I’ve made (and kept) along “the way.”

VFA Update: New Fellows, Summer Celebration, and a VFA Book

Dear VFA Friends and Supporters:

It's been an exciting spring here at Venture for America, from new Fellows and VFA team members, to our upcoming Summer Celebration and a VFA book in the works. Read on to learn more!

Tickets are now on sale for the 2nd Annual Venture for America Summer Celebration! On May 30th, we will gather leaders in tech, media, finance, and business, including key note speakers Jeff Weiner, CEO of LinkedIn, and Arianna Huffington of Huffington Post, to celebrate VFA's newest class of Fellows.  

Venture for America Summer Celebration
Thursday May 30th, 2013 
IAC HQ, 555 W. 18th Street, NYC

Special Guests include:
Arthur Sulzberger, Chairman of the Board for The New York Times
Jennifer Hyman, Co-founder and CEO of Rent the Runway
Bill Ford, CEO of General Atlantic
Dave Gilboa, Co-founder Warby Parker
Bob Safian, Editor-in-Chief of Fast Company
David Tisch, Co-founder of TechStars NY
John Katzman, Founder of 2tor and Princeton Review
Alisa Volkman, Co-founder of Babble.com
and many more.

General Admission tickets go up in price from $250 to $300 on May 1st, so get your tickets todayEvent sponsors include American Express OPEN Forum, Huffington Post, Beam, and Bonobos, among others. 

Buy Tickets Now!

Welcome to the Class of 2013

We're thrilled to announce that we have confirmed the Class of 2013, and are set to add 70+ aspiring entrepreneurs to our 40 Fellows who are already living and working in Detroit, New Orleans, Providence, Cincinnati, and Las Vegas.  This inspiring group of young people includes engineers from Johns Hopkins and UPenn, a physics major from Middlebury College who started a bike-room to produce power on campus, a Duke varsity football player who started his own textbook business, a former U.S. Marine, and former employees of Goldman Sachs, Deloitte, and Ernst & Young. 

We look forward to sending Fellows to all five current VFA cities, along with three new cities: Baltimore, Cleveland, and Philadelphia. It's an impressive group of college seniors and recent grads, and we are excited to see the amazing work these young people undertake on the ground at startups and early-stage companies in cities that need them. 

To see the full list of new additions to VFA's Class of 2013, visit ventureforamerica.org/2013fellows.


Join our Team

Venture for America is hiring! We currently have three opportunities available: Recruitment Associate, Director of Development, and Director of Programs. If you or someone you know believes in Venture for America's mission and is looking to join an innovative and rapidly expanding national organization with a vibrant, fun company culture, visit our Careers Page for more information.  

If you're still in school and are looking for ways to get involved with Venture for America before graduating, we are also looking for Campus Ambassadors at colleges and universities around the country. Get the details here: Become a Campus Ambassador.

Smart People Should Build Things

In other exciting news, Harper Collins will be publishing a book, 'Smart People Should Build Things' by VFA's founder Andrew Yang in January 2014!  As the publication date nears, we'll be releasing sneak peaks of the book, which describes the inspiration for VFA and tells the story of our founding.

How Can You Help?

Recently, 2012 Fellow Max Nussenbaum wrote an article for the Huffington Post about his time in Detroit so far working for the startup "Are you a human?" and the opportunities he sees living in a non-traditional city. Check out Max's article "Move Where You Can Matter" to get a first-hand account of how becoming a VFA Fellow can change the perspective and trajectory of recent grads from across the country. 

Below is an excerpt from the application essay of one of our newest Fellows, Charlie Mohn of Georgetown University:

"Growing up in low-income neighborhood in Seattle, Washington, I saw a run-down community turn into a vibrant business district in the course of a decade. This gradual but steady transformation has been the result of one main catalyst: entrepreneurs. If it weren’t for these people who were willing to take a chance on my neighborhood to start their business, my community would still be plagued by the crime and violence that characterized the area in my childhood. Because of this experience, I realized that I wanted to start a business someday that would benefit my local community. 
As someone who was interested in entrepreneurship, I always felt that I needed to work in consulting out of college. A few years of helping out large corporations would allow me to develop the skills necessary to start my own business someday. I thought that I needed to ‘make it’ in the corporate world, and then I could turn towards my local community in Seattle. I realize now, however, that with a program like Venture for America, I can make a positive impact right out of college.
With Venture for America, I feel that I will be able to build the network that I will need to start my own business, or work in an early stage company. I believe that I will be able to gain skills in sales, marketing and project management. As someone with a finance and consulting background, I would also gain value from learning more about entrepreneurial finance, and the financial strains small businesses face. Finally, I want a first-hand perspective on why an early stage company is or is not successful. With Venture for America, I will develop the skills that will someday allow me to start a company that benefits immigrant communities in Seattle."

We’re excited to give Charlie and dozens of other young entrepreneurs like him the opportunity to get the first hand experience they need to one day go on to build businesses and create jobs in places where they can truly make an impact.

We would like to extend a sincere thank you to everyone who has been with us since the beginning and joined along the way. To donate and help support our newest class of Fellows, visit ventureforamerica.org/donate. 

We're looking forward to an exciting year, and don't forget to get your tickets to the upcoming Summer Celebration before it's too late! 

All the Best,
The VFA Team 

Fellow Spotlight: Melanie Friedrichs, Andera

b9yxr5JwlFbRkLhN-4HCwOcDsPlW_7l57TJplXFUCzsName: Melanie Friedrichs

Hometown: Bethesda, MD


University: Brown University ’12

City: Providence, RI

Anaylst, Andera

What initially attracted you to Venture for America?

I was doing research on “social enterprise ecosystem builders,” organizations that help small companies with social missions succeed, for the social enterprise non-profit that I interned for the summer before my senior year. VFA didn’t know it yet, but they fit right in. Combine an interest in social enterprise with an interest in cities, and a slightly anti-establishment approach to business, and you’ve got a match made in heaven.

What is the best part of being a VFA Fellow?

The network, hands down. All the Providence Fellows live together, and my roommates are great guys. Love hearing about the startups other Fellows are working for and the fun things they’re doing in their cities. Plus VFA has helped us plug into the local entrepreneurship scene, which in a city Providence’s size, is small enough to be a community.

What does Andera do?

We make account opening and lending solutions for banks and credit unions. Translation: if you decided to apply for a checking account online at all but the 5 largest US banks, there is a roughly 25% chance that you would be using our system.

What do you do on a typical day at work?

I’m the webinar-whitepaper-blogger-tweeter-mass-emailer-salesforce-report-and-dashboard-builder girl. Essentially I’m the public voice of Andera (although I often speak under pseudonyms) and I generate about 50 financial institution leads a month. When I was brought on, my mission was to establish Andera as a thought leader in the financial technology space, easier said than done, especially when you’re a 22 year old with no experience in finance or technology.

What’s your favorite thing about Providence?

The history. (Founded in the 1636 by Roger Williams, go religious exile!) The character. (Was very poor in the 1970s, we simply couldn’t afford the fashionable concrete architecture!) The size. (Big enough to host a party, but small enough to know the guests!)

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

I want to help Providence grow through entrepeneurship, even if my only contribution is as a warm body at networking events. (Every interaction counts!) Mainly I want to learn; about startups, about financial technology (it’s a fascinating space), and about fragile urban entrepreneurship ecosystems.