December 1, 2016
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Changing the lives of inmates, Defy Ventures recognizes that many former drug dealers and gang leaders can become successful, legal entrepreneurs. Defy “transforms the hustle” of currently and formerly incarcerated men, women, and youth by providing entrepreneurship training, intense character and personal development, job placement, executive mentorship, startup incubation, and “Shark Tank” style pitch competitions with prizes of up to $15,000 in startup capital per business. Leveraging a blended learning model, Defy combines the scalability, efficiency, and cost-effectiveness of video-based training with life-transforming opportunities for growth through in-person coaching and mentoring. Defy empowers “Entrepreneurs-in-Training” (or “EITs”) to launch successful careers and businesses and break generational legacies of poverty and incarceration.Defy has proven its ability to generate transformative change with chapters in Omaha, New York City, and the San Francisco Bay Area, and is now poised for national growth and replication. Over the next three years, Defy’s goal is to replicate its program in five additional cities and in 50 additional correctional facilities, which will allow them to serve over 10,000 EITs and their loved ones.
The Defy numbers are impressive
Defy Ventures graduates have a 3.2% recidivism rate (the rate at which they are re-incarcerated) against a national 5-year average of more than 75%. The 3-year recidivism rate in California for comparison is more than 50%. Defy has graduated 1,100 prisoners upon release who have created 150 businesses that now employ 350 people – many of them ex Defy Graduates.
Charles Hoke is Defy’s Vice President of Growth and oversees all of Defy’s outward-facing initiatives and programs, including fundraising, volunteer and donor relations, and strategic growth initiatives. After playing football and obtaining his MBA at the University of Alabama (Roll Tide!), Charles moved to NYC to work in financial services. He started his career at Sterne Agee as a High Yield Research Analyst and later worked in High Yield Sales & Trading. Charles served as one of Defy’s most active volunteers until 2014 when he left finance behind to join the Defy Ventures staff. His passion for problem solving, underdogs and fighting injustice attracted him to the opportunity to help redeem one of America’s highest failure rate industries. It also attracted him to the woman he married: Defy’s founder and CEO, Catherine Hoke.
Neil Senturia has re-invented himself several times in his relentless pursuit of entrepreneurial success. Currently, he is the CEO of Blackbird Ventures, an investor in high growth potential companies. Neil’s diverse endeavors range from writing sitcoms to technology, with a stint as a real estate developer in the middle. He has been CEO of six technology companies, three in software, one in material science, one in media and most recently clean tech. Neil has taught new venture creation as an adjunct professor in the MBA program at San Diego State University and has served on the board of directors of SDSU’s Entrepreneurial Management Center. Currently, he teaches entrepreneurship at UC San Diego’s Jacobs School of Engineering von Liebig Center for Entrepreneurism and Technology Advancement.
He is a contributing writer for The San Diego Union Tribune and his insightful articles can be read on his blog site “I am There For You Baby.”
His numerous honors include winning the Microsoft Retail Application Developer Award twice, the Arnie Karush award from the San Diego Software Industry Council, CONNECT’s Most Innovative New Product Award in software, and CONNECT’s Lifetime Contribution Award in Technology. Neil graduated from Tufts University with a B.A. degree in English and received a masters’ degree in cinema from New York University. He was a Fellow at the American Film Institute in Los Angeles.
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