Beyond the Pitch

Discussion with Ryan Frederick, Advocate for i.c.stars.

Rev1 followed up the Columbus launch of i.c.stars with a discussion with Ryan Frederick, advocate and catalyst for i.c.stars.

TW: I go to a lot of events that engage the entrepreneurial community here in Columbus. I can’t think of anything recently that’s been quite as inspiring as the i.c.stars kickoff.

RF: I actually got really emotional at the launch event; it wasn’t emotion of either sadness or happiness. As I thought about it later, it was because as I was looking at people in the audience, I was thinking how much this person or that person had helped. It was a feeling of gratitude and appreciation, of people grabbing the rope and pulling. I was almost overcome by the number of people who have helped—JPMorgan Chase, the Columbus Foundation, and of course, Rev1.

Rev1 has been part of this from the beginning. When we needed a fiscal agent, and a physical home you stepped right up. At first, I was actually a little skeptical. We didn’t want i.c.stars to be buried inside an organization with other initiatives and so many things going on a happening. But the more we talked, the more it made sense for this program to be part of something bigger than just itself.

TW: This location is a hub for entrepreneurial activity in Columbus. Many of our portfolio companies are here. Angel investors walk the halls. And then there’s just the experience resident in our team. We look forward to formally and informally making i.c.stars part of that community.

RF: The biggest part of i.c.stars isn’t just the technical skills, or the project management training, or even the instruction in writing code. It’s the life skills and leadership. It’s being collaborative and part of a team.

The people in i.c.stars will gain exposure to everything that’s happening here at Rev1. They will see companies being incubated. They’ll experience the entrepreneurial mind set. So many personal collisions are going to happen here, where someone gets inspired in the moment because they talk to an entrepreneur at Rev1 who has landed that first customer or hit a product development milestone, or had a model epiphany. Where else could someone going through a program like this have that happen?

TW: i.c.stars has accomplished so much in the last fifteen plus years, including a placement rate of 95% and an industry retention rate of 81%. But Chicago and Columbus very different environments. This is exciting, but not easy.

RF: It’s going to be a challenge in Columbus to replicate Chicago’s engagement from the technical community. In Chicago, it’s been an evolution over time. We want to leverage the curriculum and the model—not reinvent the core. But neither are we setting out to do a copy and paste.

TW: To your point, software and IT are not the primary industries here.

RF: i.c.stars will produce people of value across the spectrum of company size and time. In today’s world, every company is a software and technology company, whether it is insurance, retail, healthcare, or hospitality. All companies, regardless of size or industry need digital skills.

TW: One of things that so great about Columbus is what we at Rev1 call the Backyard Effect. People and companies already asking how they can they help i.c.stars succeed.

RF: Our asks are many. We need companies to hire our graduates. We need people to mentor. We need project sponsors and event sponsors. But rather than saying here are 12 ways you can engage, pick one, I tell people, let’s have a conversation about what’s going to provide you—whether as an individual or as a company—the most value.

We don’t want to exhaust a person or a company. We want to spread the asks and the gives across the community to engage strategically where both i.c.stars and the individual or company gain the most.

TW: Seeing the results of i.c.stars, has made us believe that there are hundreds, if not thousands, of people who have the ability to have a digital career if they are given the awareness and access to have one.

RF: And we’d be right. At the i.c.stars launch in Columbus, Sandee Kastrul, president and co-founder of i.c.stars said it poignantly and brilliantly. “There is plenty of poverty to go around.” What we need are more atypical pathways for people who were either born in the wrong circumstances, or made some wrong choices, or ended up on a wrong path.

Based on the volume and velocity of the demand and the potential that we see in the marketplace, we have no concerns about being able to find and place people in Columbus.

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