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Venture for America and UBS announce 2016 UBS Venture Catalyst Award winners

New York Media Releases Americas UBS News

Previous Award Winners Banza and Castle featured in documentary Generation Startup, Premiering September 23 at IFC Center in New York City

New York, NY- UBS and Venture for America (VFA) today announced the winners of the 2016 UBS Venture Catalyst Awards. The awards, funded by UBS, total $150,000, and are grant seed investments for VFA alumni-founded startups to help drive growth and development.  

Venture for America is a fellowship program that helps recent college graduates launch their careers as entrepreneurs and at the same time to revitalize American cities including Detroit, New Orleans and Baltimore. The goal is to fuel job growth while empowering talented young people to create value in their communities. Twenty-five percent of VFA fellows have gone on to launch their own ventures.

The 2016 UBS Venture Catalyst Award Winners are:

  • Arthur, co-founded by Leigh Sevin and Jinesh Shah: partners customers with a professional stylist to bring the latest looks for the upcoming season without leaving home
  • Doze, co-founded by Brendan Rice and Russell Suskind: an ecommerce mattress company for college students and recent grads
  • Emile, co-founded by Charlie Molthrop and Nazli Danis: an SMS-based accountability companion that helps with personal goals
  • Felix Gray, co-founded by David Roger: stylish computer glasses to reduce eye strain and filter damaging blue light
  • Larvio, founded by Andrew Jones: a new, efficient method of organic waste recycling that produces livestock feed in addition to soil amendments
  • Naturall, co-founded by Muhga Eltigani: unique hair care products from all natural ingredients
  • Pinch Crawfish Kitchen, founded by Sean Wen: Southeast Asian street food kitchen with a focus on delicious food, community building and cultural engagement based in San Antonio, TX
  • Aha Plant Life, founded by Sara Cullen: culinary-driven brand creating nutritious, delicious and accessible hemp beverages that celebrate the power of plant-based living
  • Potluck, co-founded by Dillon Myers: a social video platform that helps connect people with common interests to never eat alone
  • Synotrac, co-founded by Forrest Miller: an implantable medical device that enables proactive monitoring for and early detection of post-surgical infection

"Seeing Venture for America alums take on the challenge of building companies and creating value is incredibly invigorating. I have no doubt that many of these teams will achieve great things in the months ahead," said Andrew Yang, Founder and CEO of Venture for America. "We’re incredibly grateful to our friends at UBS for their partnership in launching the next generation of American entrepreneurs."

In 2014, the inaugural year of the UBS Venture Catalyst Award, Banza (a chickpea pasta company) and Castle (a property management system) were among the early-stage companies to receive the grants. The founders of these companies are prominent characters in the upcoming UBS-funded documentary, Generation Startup. The film captures the struggles and triumphs of six VFA Fellows who put everything on the line to build startups in Detroit. Generation Startup premieres September 23, 2016 at the IFC Center in New York City.

"From the earliest days, we saw the potential of VFA to impact communities across the country," said Lori Feinsilver, Head of Community Affairs, UBS Americas. "Through the UBS Venture Catalyst Awards, our hope is to build on the foundation that VFA provides their fellows and ensure their continued development."

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About UBS AG

UBS draws on its 150-year heritage to serve private, institutional and corporate clients worldwide, as well as retail clients in Switzerland. Its business strategy is centered on its pre-eminent global wealth management businesses and its leading universal bank in Switzerland. Together with a client-focused Investment Bank and a strong, well-diversified Global Asset Management business, UBS will expand its premier wealth management franchise and drive further growth across the Group.

UBS is present in all major financial centers worldwide. It has offices in more than 50 countries, with about 35% of its employees working in the Americas, 36% in Switzerland, 17% in the rest of Europe, the Middle East and Africa and 12% in Asia Pacific. UBS employs about 61,000 people around the world. Its shares are listed on the SIX Swiss Exchange and the New York Stock Exchange (NYSE).

About Venture for America

Venture for America is a fellowship program for enterprising recent college graduates to launch their careers as entrepreneurs and revitalize American cities. After five weeks of training, VFA Fellows spend two years in the trenches of a startup in an emerging U.S. city where they learn how to contribute to a high-growth business. Afterwards, VFA provides the mentorship, network, and resources Fellows need to become entrepreneurs.

Venture for America’s goal is to fuel job growth in cities throughout the U.S. while empowering our best and brightest to create value in their communities. They aim to produce effective and high-character builders who will found and lead quality organizations throughout their careers. 

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About Generation Startup

Generation Startup takes us to the front lines of entrepreneurship in America, capturing the struggles and triumphs of six recent college graduates who put everything on the line to build startups in Detroit. Shot over 17 months, it’s an honest, in-the-trenches look at what it takes to launch a startup. Directed by Academy Award winner Cynthia Wade and award-winning filmmaker Cheryl Miller Houser, the film celebrates risk-taking, urban revitalization, and diversity while delivering a vital call-to-action—with entrepreneurship at a record low, the country’s economic future is at stake.