Beyond Vassar

VC² Entrepreneurship in the Vassar Community

By Carrie Hojniki ’12

One afternoon in early spring John Moore III ’07 scrawled three words on a blackboard in the President’s Conference Room on the second floor of Main Building: “Creative, unique/quirky.” The words, offered by an alumnus and entrepreneur in the audience, were placed beneath a header that read: “What is an entrepreneur to the Vassar community?” It was one of the questions guiding the preceding half hour of discussion. Roughly one hour and a very full chalkboard later, Moore leaned back and snapped a photo of his handiwork.

“I just don’t want to forget this,” he explained.

VC2 co-founders John Moore III ’07 & Anthony Baldor ’03

Moore, along with Anthony Baldor ’03, recently founded one of Vassar’s latest alum-driven career initiatives, the Vassar College Venture Co-op, or as it was colloquially referred to throughout the day, VC Squared (or VC2). According to its mission, the group “organizes resources to promote self-funding creativity, entrepreneurship, and small business ownership by students, faculty, alumni, and other members of the Vassar College community.” The idea is to learn from alumnae/i who already employ their business acumen in Poughkeepsie and around the world.

This was the group’s inaugural meeting, a time intended for alumnae/i and current students to gather and discuss the specifics, problems, and motivations behind forming such a Vassar entrepreneurship program. For Moore, who himself is relatively new to the world of entrepreneurship, the motivation behind VC2 was quite clear.

“The whole idea came from both of us noticing that there was a lot of trial and error at the beginning of starting a company that could be learned in an undergrad environment where the consequences are less significant,” explained Moore. “Even after you’re working in your business, there’s always something new to learn, and I want to learn from Vassar alumni because of our common experiences here.”

Just a year earlier Moore founded PrescribableApps, a mobile-health initiative that provides doctors and patients with communication tools to better stay in touch. Improved communication, Moore explained, could help to determine what self-management skills the patient should alter or engage in to improve health outcomes and what subsequent medical action should be taken.

Now looking for angel investors—part of the entrepreneurial lexicon that refers to the individuals who provide start-up capital—Moore sees VC2  as just as much of a learning experience for him as it will be for student participants.

For the more established alumnae/i entrepreneurs, there’s a different takeaway. Barry Gonder ’78, who invests in private equity and venture capital, knew he wanted to be a part of the initiative as soon as he saw the concept starting to form.

“I received a tremendous amount from Vassar, and my career is now at such a point that I can start to really think about giving back,” he explained.

Despite several hours of meticulous discussion (in response to which one alumnus couldn’t help but say, “This is so Vassar ... ”), the specifics of the program are still under construction. But if the packed room was any indication of interest, then the program, even with its structure up in the air, already has an army of dedicated followers and participants.

“I think the hardest part is getting humanities and arts majors into the room. Most have not realized they are likely going to end up working on their own,” he said. “Many end up doing something that’s very much solo work, and they’ll need entrepreneurial skills to be successful in those businesses.”