Our 2020-1 Unshackled Fellows: Where are they now?

We chatted with some of our alumni to get the scoop on the Unshackled Fellowship

As we launch Fellowship applications for cohort 4.0, we thought we’d call on our alumni to share their top tips for the Fellowship including: application help, how to make the most of the experience and how it informed their next big career moves. Our Fellows are an extension of our team and we can’t wait to meet our next crew!

Ready to apply to Fellowship 4.0? Tap this link or feel free to share with those who might have interest!

What did you enjoy most about the Unshackled experience?

Jarrod: The Community! Meeting a diverse group of student investors who are passionate about technology — everything from FemTech (shoutout to Kiana Afshar!) to Future of Work (shoutout to Alex Ker!) to launching their own campus ecosystems (shoutout to Amil Naik!) — has been transformational. The Unshackled community has opened doors, created friendships, and expanded my perspective far beyond my expectation.

Jathan: Seriously, where to begin? I was blown away by the Unshackled family itself, from a class of fellows who all had remarkably unique backgrounds to a team that made the world of VC and early-stage startups so approachable. The community is richly authentic and always interfacing with some of the most exciting people and movements.

I have to add that as a singer who was especially interested in the intersection of music and investing, the fellowship was a bridge towards understanding the music tech landscape in an unexpected way. I think you’ll be pretty surprised at how curated of an experience it becomes; one of my favorite moments was playing a role in a final meeting call with a company in the creator economy space that had tremendous implications for artist support.

Jess: My favorite part of the fellowship was preparing company deep dives. I learned a lot about several emerging technologies and their applications. I enjoyed this in particular because of the team’s involvement in the process and their feedback throughout — it was fascinating to view their perspective when evaluating companies. During each deep dive, I was also encouraged to give my honest opinion on the business, which has helped develop my investing acumen.

Alex: I enjoyed how down-to-earth, thoughtful, and driven the team is. The Unshackled value prop and thesis as a firm is so clear in the everyday operations and embodied by every member. I not only had the opportunity to learn how to tactfully communicate with founders, deep dive into an industry, but also was able to contribute my insights in the decision-making process. I received stellar career and company-building advice from some individuals on the team as well. I continue to be inspired by our cohort of ambitious students, and plan on staying in touch and potentially collaborating down the line.

Amil: The community of Unshackled was definitely the greatest part for me. The whole team was always available to answer questions or help me out on projects I’d taken on, and it was great to learn from people with so much wisdom and experience to share. The other fellows have also been awesome; I’ve met so many other passionate, dedicated people looking to change the world and do big things, and it has pushed me to do better every day. Unshackled has given me some great friends, people to ideate with and learn from, and maybe even some future cofounders

What advice do you have for those considering applying?

Jarrod: I applied to the Unshackled fellowship after spending a majority of my career in sports business and was looking to transition into venture capital. Prior to Unshackled, I had zero experience within VC. If you are intellectually curious, have a desire to learn, willing to hustle, and most importantly, have a heart to serve entrepreneurs — Apply!

Jathan: Put a spotlight on where your passions and skills overflow. When you own the spaces that you can’t get enough of, you open yourself to a realm that deeply challenges you to grow. Plus, expect that Unshackled fellows not only gain a first-hand portal into VC, but are actually part of writing what that future will look like! The road towards more audacious and diverse innovation getting backed is in so many ways being paved by this team.

Jess: This program is a great way to get exposure to what venture entails. In your application and interview, let your reasons for wanting to break into VC shine through. Highlight what your interests and passions are, and how they align with what Unshackled is offering.

Alex: Be opportunistic — if you are thinking about applying, just do it! Be concise and clear. Articulate authentically how you have served or wish to support entrepreneurs (who can also just be your friends) in your community or ecosystem. Think about how your story, experience, and interests fit within the Unshackled vision of backing visionary immigrant founders from day-zero. Share your unique view and opinion of the world and your superpower. You will meet some awesome peers in the program and the Unshackled team makes it such a worthwhile hands-on experience to learn about venture. Feel free to reach out to me on Linkedin if you want feedback on your application or want to chat!

Amil: Take the leap of faith and go for it if you’re interested in startups. Go in with an open mind and you will learn so much from everyone around you. Hone your passion, skillset, and voice and be confident in who you are. If you’re interested in doing something now, jump right in and learn from the experience. The lessons you gain from doing it will serve you well now and pay dividends in the future. Most of all, be authentic; your story is your most unique strength and driver in everything you will do.

What’s next for you?

Jarrod: I recently joined Emerson Collective as an Analyst with our early-stage investment team. I’m incredibly grateful for all of the mentorship and coaching I received from the Unshackled team. Manan, Nitin, Maria, Sarah and Faye each went out of their way to help provide feedback and guidance when I needed the most. I can say with confidence that my time as a Fellow fully prepared me to take the next step in my career as an Investor!

Jathan: Largely because of the Unshackled network, I’ve joined the Bessemer fellowship and will be working this summer as chief of staff/ intern to the CEO at Gainsight. Over the next year I’m thrilled to be serving as president of an on-campus org of ~350 Latinx members called SHPE, and will be working on building and tinkering with ideas in the music tech space in Atlanta. Reach out if you’re also interested in that ecosystem! Also, I graduate in one year…woooooo

Jess: This summer, I’m interning at Share VC through the Black Venture Capital Consortium’s summer internship program, which also includes facilitating a summer pitch competition. Beyond that, I’m excited to graduate in December and continue working on my startup idea.

Alex: I’m currently incubating a stealth AI/ML company at Bloomberg Beta while doing work in machine intelligence on the investment team. This summer, I’m planning to join LaunchDarkly as a Bessemer Fellow. Lastly, I can’t wait to continue partnering with Unshackled on new projects and point outlier entrepreneurs their way.

Amil: I’ll be working at a VC called Decibel for the next year and taking on a Finance role at WorkBoard this summer. I’ll also be spending more time writing my Substack newsletter, Scaled and Failed (check it out if you’re into startup post-mortems and lessons for founders). To better connect UT Austin with the broader Austin tech ecosystem, I’ve started an organization called Austin Venture Strategy for students interested in becoming entrepreneurs, operators, and venture capitalists (If you’re a VC or founder interested in working with us, check out our website!).

If you are interested in the Unshackled Fellowship, applications are open! Feel free to reach out to info@unshackledvc.com, if you have any questions

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Unshackled Ventures

Unshackled Ventures

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An early stage venture fund for immigrant-founded startups