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VFA’s Amy Nelson to keynote this year’s “Startup Day Knoxville” event

By Tom Ballard, Chief Alliance Officer, PYA

The top executive at a national, non-profit organization that connects recent college graduates with jobs at start-ups is scheduled to keynote this year’s “Startup Day Knoxville” event.

Amy Nelson, Chief Executive Officer (CEO) of Venture For America (VFA), will be the featured speaker at the September 25 celebration of entrepreneurship in the greater Knoxville area. The former number two executive at the organization succeeded Andrew Yang who left the CEO position last September.

“Knoxville has a growing reputation for innovation and entrepreneurship that I’m excited to witness firsthand,” Nelson said. “Venture For America exists to help lower the barriers to building a company for aspiring entrepreneurs. I’m looking forward to seeing how the Knoxville community is building a supportive, high-growth ecosystem for budding entrepreneurs.”

According to this 18-month old Forbes article spotlighting Nelson, the VFA program is modeled on Teach for America, which recruits college graduates from top schools to work as teachers. In this case, VFA draws from the same population and finds them full-time jobs in start-ups in selected cities across the country. This influx of talent bolsters local entrepreneurship and contributes to lasting economic growth as Fellows become part of a new community.

Several graduates have been placed in Nashville including Elizabeth Duffield to whom we were introduced by Andrew Goldner two years ago. Her experience mirrors the goals of the program. After graduating from the University of Virginia, she served in several marketing-related positions for Stratasan, a Nashville start-up, before moving earlier this year to Trilliant Health where she is Director of Demand Generation.

Not only has Duffield put down roots in Music City, but she has also become very involved in the local start-up ecosystem, serving as Marketing Lead for Nashville Entrepreneur Week and an Advisor at the Nashville Entrepreneur Center.

“Startup Day” is the signature event of Innov865 Week. Having Nelson keynote the premier event provides an opportunity to showcase Knoxville and its growing entrepreneurial community as VFA scouts for new cities in which to expand and invest.

In her role as CEO, Nelson focuses on supporting aspiring young entrepreneurs and creating a pathway to entrepreneurship. Prior to joining VFA, Nelson was an integral part of the team at B Lab, where she helped launch B Analytics, the leading data platform for impact investors. She earned her MBA at New York University’s Stern School of Business and holds degrees in philosophy and government from Claremont McKenna College. After college, she helped grow highly-innovative international development organizations in Cameroon and Cambodia. Nelson currently lives in Brooklyn with her husband and two children.

“Startup Day 2018” is free and open to the public. It begins at 2 p.m. September 25 at the Mill & Mine, 227 West Depot Avenue. To register, click here.

Founding members of the Innov865 Alliance include the University of Tennessee (UT) Research Foundation; Oak Ridge National Laboratory; PYA, the power behind teknovation.biz; UT’s Anderson Center for Entrepreneurship and Innovation; Three Roots Capital; Launch Tennessee; Knoxville Entrepreneur Center; and TVA.


Tom Ballard

By Tom Ballard, Chief Alliance Officer,
Pershing Yoakley & Associates. P.C.

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