When the Kauffman Foundation launched the Global Scholars Program in 2006, their aim was to teach and inspire recent college graduates who want to build innovative, world-changing businesses. Entering its seventh year in 2013, the program has hosted students sponsored by governments and organizations from eight countries representing at least 14 nationalities. The Global Scholars Program offers high quality education in entrepreneurship and features presentations, seminars, workshops, and discussions with leading professors, researchers, and entrepreneurs from around the U.S. During the program, Scholars have the opportunity to shadow executive leaders and immerse themselves in the day-to-day operations of an innovative firm such as Google, Cisco, InVivo Therapeutics, and InCube Ventures. Through this they learn first-hand about the challenges of launching a new, innovative enterprise. The benefits provided by the Kauffman Foundation include the costs of participation in the program, program-related lodging and travel expenses for the six month duration of the program, and a small living stipend.
Kelly Peeler, a 2010 Harvard University graduate, was the ideal candidate: her aim is to build a business that helps make investing more accessible, social and cost efficient to young people, as only 14 states currently require any type of financial education. We caught up with Kelly to learn more about this extraordinary program.
1. What inspired you to apply for the Kauffman Global Scholars Program?
I was inspired to create NextGenVest, a financial education, experience, and progress-tracking platform for young adults because I had not had any type of financial literacy training through high school or in college. It was only when I became an investor within J.P. Morgan’s Private Bank that I learned how to invest and understand the need to proactively manage personal finances at any income level. I myself procrastinated learning about all topics associated with personal finance, including credit, budgeting, investing, etc. and started to realize that all of my friends and peers did as well. These are vital skills that every person really must understand and have control over, especially in a post-financial crisis era.
2. What is a typical day like for a Kauffman Global Scholar?
The Kauffman Foundation is one of the largest Foundations globally that is focused on promoting entrepreneurship and education. The Foundation hosts programs and publishes extensive research to foster discussion and action around entrepreneurship. The Kauffman Global Scholars Program is a sixth month intensive program for 13 founders from around the world to help them effectively launch their companies. Kauffman Scholars work with entrepreneurs, venture capitalists, professors, and industry professionals to learn, develop their product, and hone growth strategies in different cities including Boston, Chicago, San Francisco, and Kansas City.
It was attractive for me in that it allowed me to learn from a group of international entrepreneurs, do customer development and test my product in different cities across the U.S. It also gave me the opportunity to better understand the core problem I am solving.
3. What tips would you give others applying to the Kauffman Global Scholars Program?
Any student applying to the Kauffman Global Scholars Program should have a clear understanding of why they want to build the company they want to build. They don’t have to have all the answers about how the product or service will look, but they should understand the problem they are trying to solve. Everyone who goes through the program changes their product over time based on the feedback of their users. The applicant needs to be willing to go out and ask users lots of questions, receive criticism, and adapt – quickly. The interview is about proving your ability to formulate and execute ideas. Be flexible and honest about the challenges you have faced so far in starting your own company or venture, they know everyone has them!
As a Kauffman Foundation Global Scholar, Kelly Peeler is building a company focused on making personal finances easier for young adults. She is currently piloting NextGenVest with schools and parents. If you believe you could have been more prepared to manage your own finances, let Kelly know! Contact her at: Kelly at nextgenvest.com
Kelly is also the Executive Director of Business Across Borders. Previously, she worked at J.P. Morgan’s Private Bank as an investor covering financial sponsors, venture capital principals, and strategic clients to the firm. Kelly holds a bachelor’s degree in history and economics from Harvard University.
© Victoria Johnson 2013, all rights reserved.