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.

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.

Fellow Spotlight: Sean Pennino, Teespring

Name: Sean Pennino

Hometown: Rochester, NY

University: University of Notre Dame ’11, Brown University ‘12

Business Development, Teespring
Providence, RI


What initially attracted you to Venture for America?

VFA seemed liked the best way to get the startup experience without compromising job security or personal finances, the normal risks faced by entrepreneurs.  I also loved the prospect of being sent to a city where I can make a difference.

What is the best part of being a VFA fellow?

Knowing that whenever other fellows are killing it, it makes me look better.

What does Teespring  do?

Think Kickstarter meets Custom Ink.  Meets awesome.  Teespring will someday be a place where you can crowdfund anything, but right now you can use our site to crowdfund custom apparel.  The benefit over Kickstarter is that we actually make and distribute the product, instead of just giving you the money raised.  Bring us an idea and supporters and we’ll do the rest.

What do you do on a typical day at work?

I wear many hats and I wouldn’t have it any other way.  I spend most of the day generating leads and working with current clients, but I have done anything from writing code that increases the sales team’s efficiency to graphic design.  I’ve also recently gotten into SEM.

What’s your favorite thing about Providence?:

Providence has the culture of a big city and the comforts of a small town.  It’s a very affordable city with plenty to do year-round.

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

I’d like to bring Teespring to global dominance and create at least 1000 new jobs in Providence.  I should also make sure to meet the love of my life before then so I know she’s not just into my fame.

Fellow Spotlight: Tim Dingman, Accio Energy

Name: Tim Dingman

Hometown: Sudbury, Massachusetts

University: Brown University ’11, ’12

Engineer, Accio Energy
Detroit, MI



What initially attracted you to Venture for America?

After the experiences of my undergraduate engineering career, I decided I was fully uninterested in a career in research. I wanted to combine my technical skillset with my organizational and creative abilities to make an immediate impact. With Venture for America, I knew I could fulfill my goals – at work and in my city.

What is the best part of being a VFA fellow?

The best part of being a VFA fellow is the other fellows. The other Detroit fellows are all my friends, and we have helped each other adjust to our new situations and surroundings with vigor. They impressed me during training camp, and I know we can use our talents to help rebuild our cities in the next two years.

What does Accio Energy do?

My company does wind power without blades or turbines. I can’t disclose much else, as we have patents pending and must keep the details of our technology secret.

What do you do on a typical day at work?

I have two jobs at work: one as a mathematical modeler of the physics of our technology, and one as a test engineer in our shop. Some days I sit at the computer running and analyzing simulations, and some days I run experiments and collect data. The key to working here, and at any startup, is flexibility.

What’s your favorite thing about Detroit?:

The best thing about Detroit is the communal spirit. Everyone knows Detroit has seen better days, but they know equally as well that we all have the power to change the city for the good. People here have a gritty pride about their city, and from what I’ve seen they want to help out in any way they can.

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

In my two years, I hope to have a measurable impact on Detroit and to lock in business partners for any possible ventures. In the short term, impact might mean picking up trash or helping to construct an urban farm. In the longer term, though, I am open to the possibility of setting up shop here in the D.