Meet our 2019 Symposium Keynote Speaker: Amy Nelson, CEO, Venture For America
Amy Nelson joined Venture for America in 2013 to lead fundraising, rose to Managing Director in 2016, and became CEO in 2017. And on Tuesday morning, June 11, she’ll deliver keynote remarks at the 8th annual 8th Annual Deshpande Symposium at the UMass Lowell Inn & Conference Center in downtown Lowell, Massachusetts.
As CEO of Venture for America, Amy is focused on making VFA the go-to path for aspiring young entrepreneurs and helping lower the barriers to entrepreneurship for all. “The entrepreneurship educators and thought leaders who attend and present at the Symposium are deeply invested in inspiring the next generation of job creators and economy builders,” said Deshpande Foundation Executive Director Raj Melville. “We’re excited to welcome Amy as this year’s keynote speaker because she represents the next stage—where that next generation acquires resources and builds practical skill sets that empower them to get their ideas off the ground.”
“My calling was to create opportunities for others.”
Working for two international relief agencies after college, Amy took special interest in investing in companies with social missions, and in social entrepreneurship. This interest propelled her to a business degree from NYU’s Stern School in 2013 and a fundraising job at Venture for America. “I told myself I wasn’t going to do fundraising after business school, but I knew they were on the precipice of something big.” Within four years, she was CEO.
That “something big” is attracting recent college graduates (“fellows”) to startups in US cities that aren’t seen as entrepreneurship hotbeds on a par with Silicon Valley—but where entrepreneurs are innovating, building businesses, and creating jobs.
“Our mission is to revitalize cities and communities through entrepreneurship. Our startups are in places like Cleveland, Pittsburgh, St. Louis and Detroit, cities that struggle to retain and attract talent. If you’re a startup in Cleveland, you don’t have the bandwidth to recruit from Yale. We also know that tech jobs have a downstream effect in terms of creating other jobs.”
Amy’s efforts have more than tripled the organization’s fundraising, and driven VFA’s investment in building out its regional efforts. Amy is deeply committed to having VFA become the go-to path for aspiring entrepreneurs, having conceptualized the organization’s Accelerator program and Seed Fund.
“Women truly want to see other women succeed.”
While Amy’s rise within VFA placed her in a position of organizational leadership, she shortly thereafter began establishing herself as a thought leader with a Forbes guest column, “3 Things I Have Learned as a Female CEO.” We recommend it to anyone, of any gender, who plans to follow the path of the entrepreneur.
About the Deshpande Symposium
The Deshpande Symposium is a gathering of like-minded practitioners focused on accelerating innovation and entrepreneurship across the college and university environment. The Symposium provides a venue for attendees to learn from each other’s experiences; to gain wider exposure for their ideas, successes and start-ups; and to collaborate on activities that increase innovation and entrepreneurship in their academic communities. College and university faculty, administrators, and students, as well as business people and entrepreneurs, are invited to attend. Register for the Symposium.
All Symposium events will take place at the UMass Lowell Inn & Conference Center, where accommodations are available while space lasts. Attendees needing accommodations should reserve rooms at the ICC as soon as possible, as space is limited and there are no other hotels within walking distance of the Symposium.