Before there was BUILD in Boston, there were three big-hearted venture capitalists with a dream to make a difference in the lives of teens in their community. On the eve of our five-year anniversary, we sat down with our Founding Board Chair Jeff Glass to get the story of how BUILD came to Boston and what things were like in year zero.
In 2008, Jeff Glass started a conversation with his partner at Bain Capital Ventures, Ajay Agarwal. Jeff and Ajay wanted to do something impactful for high school students in Boston. They soon had the good fortune to meet BUILD’s founder and CEO, Suzanne McKechnie Klahr and the BUILD program resonated with them.
“Entrepreneurship played a big role in my having the life I wanted to have,” said Jeff, who attended an inner city high school in New York. When he was a young entrepreneur, his business motivated him and kept him on the right path. So BUILD was a perfect intersection between his personal story, his professional interests, and his desire to help young people.
Jeff and Ajay recruited a fellow Bain VC, Scott Friend, to help them bring BUILD to Boston. Ultimately, Ajay’s work took him to California where he became a member of BUILD’s National Board. Jeff took on the role as the Board Chair in Boston.
Before launching, there was a lot of work to be done including feasibility studies, initial fundraising, and staffing the project. Jeff gives special thanks to Jeff Fagnan and Hemant Taneja for providing much of this initial funding through their giving circle which eventually grew into today’s TUGG.
Jeff is humble about his role in bringing BUILD to Boston, but happily takes credit for the part he played in recruiting Ayele Shakur as Boston’s Founding Regional Executive Director. He recalls the challenge of recruiting for this position, which required experience with high school students, strong leadership skills, and an entrepreneurial spirit. It was immediately apparent that Ayele had all three of these in abundance.
While Jeff was nervous that this would be difficult to pitch to the schools, it turned out that 17 schools responded to BUILD’s invitation, which gave BUILD the opportunity to choose its school partners based on which ones had the greatest need for the program. BUILD’s target schools are those with graduation rates below 60 percent. Jeff recalls having to say to headmasters, “I’m sorry, you’re just too good!”
Today BUILD is in six schools in Boston, serving 300 students. It has 15 staff members, 100 mentors, and a cohort of over 50 alumni–all of whom were accepted to college! BUILD is thrilled to be honoring Jeff for his role in bringing BUILD to Boston at the BUILDFest Gala and Student Business Expo on October 19 at the Boston Convention Center. In addition to being BUILD Boston’s biggest fundraiser, the event will celebrate five years of helping hundreds of students realize their potential through the power of entrepreneurship. For more information or tickets visit www.buildinboston.org/buildfest.