Celebrating the first anniversary of their founding, the Vassar Venturers, an organization whose goal is to bring in mentors to inspire Vassa’rs budding entrepreneurs, are going strong after hosting CEO and co-Founder of Wiki-PR Michael French this past week on campus. The event, held Feb. 13th, featured a lecture by French, who discussed everything from how businesses can work on open-source platforms to the state of venture capital in the company’s hometown of San Francisco.
Wiki-PR, as French described, “Gets notable people, ideas and businesses on Wikipedia and manages their pages.” The company creates pages for both well-known and lesser-known people if they don’t have one, manage and updates new information about the person and translates it, if needed, into other languages for greater access around the world.
The lecture was followed by an opportunity to interview for a position within Wiki-PR. Of the approximately thirty students who attended the lecture, about fifteen interviewed with French. He said, “[We wanted to] recruit the brightest minds to work for us…That’s why we came to Vassar.”
This lecture offered students an opportunity to learn how a startup works while gaining valuable skills for future endeavors.
The club was founded last February by Charlotte Yang ’13. Yang said,“There wasn’t really an entity for entrepreneurship for students.” She went to Venture for America to try to gain experience, only to discover that most opportunities were made available exclusively to seniors. She said, “I decided to create a space that helps students like me who want someplace for their startup plan.”
The group holds weekly meetings to help students brainstorm, refine and pursue their own ideas. However, Yang states the majority of their work is bringing Alumnae/i and mentors.
“We invite them to campus to give a lecture, give a speech, or discuss with students what they want to do with their projects,” said Yang.
The Venturers continue to help foster this relationship between the mentors and the students through the maintenance of a directory of advisors who have knowledge and expertise in areas such as finance, marketing, patents, and technology.
The Vassar Venturers are currently seeking preliminary organization status with the VSA. This new status will help make smooth the logistics behind hosting weekly meetings, making inconveniences such as paperwork associated with each room reservation for meetings and other tedious tasks easier.
In order to maintain this preliminary organization status they must hold meetings that are open to the student body, supply meeting and event information to VSA VP of Activities Doug Greer ’14, and follow the VSA bylaws.
The Vassar Venturers currently have seven members on their Operating Team and reach a large population of both alumnae/i and students with a monthly newsletter sent to over three hundred recipients.
Vassar Venturers VP of Marketing, Ann Nguyen ’15, agreed that the VSA preliminary org status would benefit the Venturers.
She said, “Being a preliminary organization would give us an official backing that we wouldn’t have without recognition from the VSA.”
Recognition from the VSA will help the group financially, as a change to preliminary organization status would allow funding up to $200 per semester. Presently the Vassar Venturers have been relying on donations from friends and alums, as well as seeking individual funding from the Career Development Office.
Nguyen seems optimistic that this move will help them financially in other ways, stating, “Hopefully the school will show less resistance to our fundraising.”
Yang elaborated, “If an alum donates money to us, from the school’s administrative perspective, there should be follow-up and record keeping; which will have to go through school’s administrative forces. But considering their commitment to the [sesquicentinnial] campaign, what we were doing was low priority.”
The new ease with which they can raise funds will allow the Venturers to promote and finance their initiatives.
Currently they are working on projects such as the maintenance of a library available to Venturer members and the creation of a curriculum the Vassar College Venture Co-operative. However, their biggest running project is the creation of a TEDx event, scheduled to happen in the fall.
“Our team’s idea is that through the TEDx opportunity, we can bring inspiring people from everywhere and all fields to campus and offer an intellectual feast. Vassar gets amazing speakers from time to time, but over ten speakers donating their time to come speak on the same day will be an unparalleled experience,” said Yang.
She said that the Venturers hope to bring the spirit of TED talks to Vassar and center the talks around a theme about which students are passionate. Yang concluded, “TED is all about getting inspired…We have been considering themes such as the value of higher education and vision in action. We believe that whatever our theme will be for the coming year, it will inspire students from all disciplines as we plan to bring speakers to address the topic from different perspectives—the essence of an eclectic liberal arts education.”