Chato was one of only 173 fellows from around the country selected for the 2018 cohort
When ambition meets opportunity, amazing things happen, including the case of Jason Chato ’17.
Even though he always had an interest in entrepreneurship, he accepted a job at a wealth management firm after graduating from Towson University with his degree in business administration/entrepreneurship. But after a year, he decided to find something more aligned with his passion.
Soon after leaving his job, he discovered Venture for America, a competitive fellowship program that trains and places recent graduates in startups in select U.S. cities.
Chato decided to go for it, and after multiple, rigorous interviews was named one of only 173 fellows from around the country for the 2018 cohort, becoming the first TU alum to be selected in the program's seven-year history.
Chato said he was thrilled to become a part of a mission-based organization that mirrors his values.
"Venture for America acts as a bridge to funnel talent to startups in cities that don't have the same funding and talent pipelines as cities like New York or Los Angeles, so that these underserved cities and communities themselves can grow and be fruitful," he said.
To kick off his two-year fellowship, Chato participated in a month-long training camp in Detroit, practicing everything from basic application development and computer programming to design thinking, problem solving and soft skills development.
Chato said his academic experiences at TU, including Microsoft Excel certification and courses in entrepreneurship, thoroughly prepared him for the intensive training. His internship at the TU Incubator exposed him to working with startups firsthand, which also gave him a leg up. And he got a big boost of confidence from his mentor, Bobbi Laur, who was the first one to introduce him to Venture for America.
"She definitely was always there to support me," he said. "In the midst of trying to work through decisions or if I didn't know who to talk to, I would say, 'Let me send an email and see if she has time.' Then I'd go over, and we'd just chat. I'd always felt better."
After the training camp, Chato was placed at Guru, a business-to-business software startup in Philadelphia. Although he plans on starting his own business one day, Chato is in no hurry.
"I value resiliency, perseverance, patience and the long game as a whole," he said.
Chato's path and achievements are proof that he lives his values. Originally from Los Angeles, Chato went to West Point as a college freshman to train to be a U.S. Army officer, but after shoulder surgery set him back in his training, he moved to Prince George's County, Maryland, and attended community college for two years before transferring to TU to finish his bachelor's degree. Along the way he realized that resiliency and patience among other things are needed in entrepreneurship.
"You're likely never going to find another track that requires you to make the most of your own individual idea to the point that it's sustainable, even without you being there," he says. "To the point that it's something that can offer value and help others in a chosen community or even beyond, as well as allow for you to in live the life that you most desire to live."