Announcing the Unshackled Ventures Fellows: Class of 2019

Unshackled Ventures
Jul 29 · 8 min read

Throughout the late 1800s, immigrants drove the U.S. economy when they passed through Ellis Island on their way to power the steel industry, build the transcontinental railroad and innovate American manufacturing toward global dominance.

At Unshackled Ventures, we believe the university system is our generation’s Ellis Island — in fact, more than 80% of our portfolio companies have an immigrant founder that completed their higher education in the U.S. We believe it is our responsibility to go where entrepreneurs are and help take one more step towards creating 100,000 jobs for our nation.

With this in mind, we are excited to announce our inaugural class of 2019 for the Unshackled Ventures Fellowship Program. These exceptional individuals were chosen for their intense curiosity to learn, an outstanding track record for achievement, and ability to be connected in their university’s startup ecosystem. We have decided to launch the Unshackled Fellowship Program to expose and mentor the next generation of venture capitalists.

Our fellows will leverage this program as a way to meet more people on their campuses and community while bridging the gap between university talent and venture capital. We are excited for these impressive individuals to extend our firm to their schools, building relationships that will last them for a lifetime.

FOCUS AREAS

We have made some inroads in the Midwest and Southeast ecosystems, meeting and learning from some great local investors, entrepreneurs, universities, enterprises, and others in the innovation ecosystem.

Some of our efforts include:

  • Participated in the Comeback Cities Tours to the Heartland and South East, and shared our insights on VentureBeat;
  • Joined Steve Case on The Rise of the Rest Tour (Techcrunch);
  • Organized a University tour covering 8 schools in 6 cities in 5 days, directly meeting about 500 entrepreneurs and indirectly reaching over 2,000;
  • Connected with and mentored entrepreneurs at universities (e.g., Case Western, CMU, Notre Dame, etc.) via video conferences or on-site events;
  • Many of our portfolio founders and limited partners grew up in, graduated from, are operating in, or otherwise, have strong ties to the Midwest;
  • Close relationships with local investors such as Comeback Capital, Acquire Capital, Elevate Partners, Heartland VC, Rev1 Ventures, Rise of The Rest, and many more.

We are now doubling down with the Fellowship Program, establishing feet on the ground and attempting to be more active as a resource to entrepreneurs across our nation.

At Unshackled Ventures, we believe what’s good for immigrants is good for America.

MEET OUR FELLOWS

The initial cohort of fellows represents a reach to approximately 180,000 students from 6 campuses of which 33,000 are international students (~18%). We are so excited to tap into the potential at these schools.

Zhaohan (Amanda) Li | Emory University — Amanda is a senior at Emory University, majoring in finance, economics, and mathematics. She is passionate about driving social change through innovation, capital, and entrepreneurship. In her sophomore year, she co-founded Ability Enabled, a startup that helps people with disabilities in the workplace. Before becoming a University Fellow at Unshackled, she worked at the first female-founded venture capital firm in Georgia and helped organize one of the largest pitch competitions in the United States for underrepresented startup founders. Her other experiences in tech and finance include working as an investment banking summer analyst at Jefferies and as an FP&A summer analyst at Zoom Video Communications. In her free time, she enjoys visiting museums and has been to over 70 museums in 17 countries.

Dante Vaisbort | University of Chicago — Dante studies Classics and Economics at the University of Chicago. On campus, he leads the professional entrepreneurship fraternity and serves on the board of Learning to Fly Ventures which funds student-run businesses through investment grants. In addition to his own venture, Dante has previously consulted for an Edward L. Kaplan New Venture Challenge team, and this summer will be providing business development aid for a Polsky Accelerator company. In his spare time, Dante enjoys board games, numismatics, photography, and indoor bouldering.

Grace Boyle | University of Southern California — Grace studies Neuroscience and Entrepreneurship at the University of Southern California. She is the Vice President of Community for Troy Labs, a venture platform on campus. Through Troy Labs, she co-directed the largest Demo Day at USC, connecting over 60 startups to potential investors. Grace is helping to launch the Female Quotient chapter at USC as well, advancing equality in the workplace. This summer, Grace came to San Francisco to help launch the Unshackled Fellowship Program, learning about the fund and its ideals. Through this experience, she helped with market research and competitor analysis of startups, learning an extensive amount about how a venture capital firm runs its process. Additionally, Grace is a DJ for the student radio station, KXSC.org, and also a member of Delta Gamma Alpha Nu. She enjoys traveling, stand-up comedy, and listening to podcasts.

Hanzla Rasheed | University of Chicago — Hanzla is a rising junior at the University of Chicago majoring in Economics. On campus, he is the Chair of International Admissions Outreach at College Admissions and has previously served as a consultant at Campus Catalyst, a pro-bono consulting group at UChicago. This summer, he is working as a business research fellow at Wanxiang Corporation in China. In his spare time, he loves exploring new cafes and tea houses around Chicago and globetrotting during school breaks. About immigrants, he believes that the amalgamation of different cultures, backgrounds, and thought processes has the potential to solve some of the world’s most pressing problems and specifically in the entrepreneurial space, has the potential to build businesses that work for the people.

Hari Senthilkumar | UCLA — Hari is a sophomore at UCLA studying Computer Science. His interests revolve in the areas of entrepreneurship and venture capital that have the most impact on society. He has volunteered at a blind center where he created a technology aid to assist the blind in playing the violin and was a semifinalist for Lemelson-MIT where he helped create a proximity sensing jacket for individuals with ambulatory difficulties. He’s also worked with Google to create a robotic arm to play tic-tac-toe through Google Assistant. On campus, he’s actively involved with the entrepreneurship culture as the incoming recruitment chair for UCLA’s professional entrepreneurship fraternity, Sigma Eta Pi, and was a recipient of the Richard L. Gay Scholarship. Hari is excited to be a part of Unshackled because he grew up in California as the son of immigrants from India and is excited for the rest of the world to see the untapped potential of immigrants that he has experienced in his personal life. In his free time, you can see him reading books, watching the NBA, or exploring what Los Angeles has to offer.

Rakith (Jay) Jayewardene | Case Western Reserve University — Jay is a junior at Case Western studying CS, where he is interested in the intersection of software and business for developing various applications such as enterprise software. He was a Market Research and Strategy Analyst at Paravane Ventures — an early-stage venture capital firm based in Seattle, WA — and previously served as a Business Technology Analyst at Virtusa — an IT Consulting Firm based in Westborough, MA. On campus, he is the Chief Technology Officer of Hesiod Financial, an investment management firm that he had founded in October 2018 with 17 other General Partners, and was a Research Assistant for a semester-long project in blockchain development. This summer, he will be a Venture Capital Summer Analyst at Mutual Capital Partners, a venture capital firm that specializes in Series A funding for Medical Device Technology and B2B Software companies. Outside of his academic and professional activities, he enjoys playing competitive basketball and traveling internationally.

Ramida (Prim) Phoolsombat | University of Southern California — Prim is a junior at the University of Southern California studying Linguistics. Growing up, she watched her immigrant parents build a business from scratch and started her own in high school. As a fellow for Unshackled Ventures, she hopes to support the journeys of immigrant founders in Los Angeles. At USC, she’s a member of Spark SC, an entrepreneurship organization, and organizing a grant and startup accelerator program for low-income students. This summer, she’s conducting research on endangered languages, beatboxing, and semantics, and is a writer for the Oxford Initiative for Global Ethics’s Global Women’s Narrative Project. In her free time, she loves singing and searching for sunny picnic spots.

Naga Rakesh Chinta | University of Michigan — Naga is a rising Senior at the University of Michigan with a focus on Data Science, Business and Entrepreneurship. He has previously worked at Google, Facebook, and Uber in technical and business roles. He is currently a Product Manager intern at Hyperspace Ventures. He has received seed funding for his AI-Edtech startup: Data Science IO, which is currently under incubation by General Catalyst. Naga formed a passion for the intersection of three focuses: at Product Management, having worked at several companies and made an impact with some amazing projects. He reads every day on new frameworks of business which can be integrated into the process, along with keeping up with technology and getting his hands dirty by directly analyzing data and programming: this allows him to have a strong technical judgment. He has also done product design, making a versatile product portfolio about his ideas on Dribbble, Behance and on his website: he designed the UI/UX and started making his ideas into a reality, which he thinks is the most important part of being a product manager.

Please join us in welcoming these fellows to Unshackled Ventures. If you are interested in learning more or getting involved at your school, please fill out this form here.

Unshackled Ventures

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An early stage venture fund for immigrant-founded startups

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