For the EVOLution of Business

Unleashing Neighborhood Entrepreneurship with Denny DeLeo of the Venture Jobs Foundation

Episode Summary

Imagine what Rochester might look like if we were able to cultivate and support an ecosystem of neighborhood entrepreneurs creating prosperity for themselves and for their community. Many of these businesses might not fit the high-tech, high-growth model served by traditional accelerators, but thanks to Denny DeLeo and the Venture Jobs Foundation, the traditional curriculum has been adapted to focus on entrepreneurs that are otherwise underserved in the entrepreneurial ecosystem. In addition to unleashing these neighborhood entrepreneurs, the Venture Jobs Foundation is investing in existing businesses willing to create jobs in high poverty neighborhoods and has an annual Prosperity Conference to promote impact investing in Rochester. Denny DeLeo is currently President of the Venture Jobs Foundation and a Partner at Trillium Group. The VJF invests in small businesses that will bring jobs to higher poverty neighborhoods. It provides a suite of technical assistance services to support this mission, including a revolving microlending fund and a business accelerator, the VJF Jobs Kitchen. In 1997, he co-founded Trillium Group, a venture capital and private equity firm that raised and invested $100 million. At Trillium, he the managing partner and fund executive of a venture fund invested in regional technology-oriented businesses. Prior to founding Trillium Group, he was employed at Eastman Kodak Company, starting in the Legal Division and ending his Kodak career as Vice President and General Manager of the Bioscience and Emerging Businesses Division and President and CEO of a Kodak subsidiary, Eastman Technology, Inc., formed to guide Kodak’s internal entrepreneurship operations and launch businesses based on leading-edge technologies.

Episode Notes

[2:30] An opportunity at Kodak that led to a Venture Capital career and then to the Venture Jobs Foundation
[5:00] Partnering with the City of Rochester, JP Morgan Chase and Canandaigua National Bank to create a microlending fund
[7:30] Launching the "Jobs Kitchen Accelerator" to help support neighborhood entrepreneurs
[10:00] Metrics of success for the Venture Jobs Foundation - creating jobs in high poverty neighborhoods
[13:45] A new "Jobs Kitchen Academy" for aspiring entrepreneurs to help decide on a business
[15:45] Becoming a "Community Development Financial Institution" to partner with banks to invest in properties in disrepair and larger business loans
[17:45] Lessons learned and building community pride
[20:00] A future program of the VJF that would invest in "anchor businesses" in Rochester
[23:45] How corporations can balance being an engine for growth and also having a positive societal impact
[27:45] Early success stories
[30:00] Barriers to continued growth - Connecting with neighborhood entrepreneurs and borrower candidates
[33:00] Learning from other cities:
Cincinnati: “Our mission is to enable under-served entrepreneurs and businesses to succeed; creating opportunities to build communities through entrepreneurship”
Chattanooga: "We believe entrepreneurship isn't for an elite few, but for anyone with a dream."
[37:00] Helping leaders to EVOLve toward a more Conscious Capitalism
[43:00] Convincing philanthropists that impact investing can change lives as much (or more) than traditional nonprofits

Are you an entrepreneur or aspiring entrepreneur that could use help growing your business?

...Or maybe you're a business owner that would like to serve as a volunteer mentor in the Jobs Kitchen Accelerator?

...Or if you're a business owner looking to create jobs in high poverty neighborhoods in Rochester and would be interested in pursuing funding from the VJF, you can learn more at