Collective Gratitude: VentureWell Community Reflects on Power of Connection

VentureWell Community

The word gratitude comes from the Latin word gratia, which means grace, graciousness, or gratefulness. Researchers have found a correlation between reflecting on the good in one’s life to improved mental and physical well-being, better relationships, even the ability to navigate adversity with greater ease.

More than ever, we need the power of positive reflection. It goes without saying that 2017 has been incredibly challenging on many fronts. Yet after most distressing news stories, there was often evidence of hope. That hope often came in the form of community – working together to support, comfort, or protect others in need.

This Thanksgiving, we’d like to turn our attention to the collective gratitude of the innovation and entrepreneurship community to remind us all that, together, we are actively and consciously striving to transform hope into a reality in difficult times – now and in the future. We asked VentureWell staff and innovators and faculty in our community to share what they’re most thankful for. Here are their responses.

Jennifer Holme
Senior VP Administration and Finance, Chief of Staff, VentureWell

“In my role, I have the privilege to hear 45 colleagues talk about how their work impacts the world, speak directly to young innovators, and interact with our many partners and funders.  In this season of Thanksgiving, I want to express my gratitude to the innovators who solve difficult world problems, to those who support these inventors, and to my colleagues at VentureWell who inspire me every day with their creativity, collaboration, and commitment to improving our world.  I am also appreciative of the calming force of nature’s beauty, music, and yoga on my wellbeing, and indebted to my amazing family and friends who fill my life with joy, laughter, and an occasional tear.”

Stephen John
Co-founder of E-Team NeoVent

“I’m thankful for the opportunity to work to help infants in respiratory distress breathe more easily. I’m thankful for inspiring colleagues and collaborators from whom I am constantly learning. I’m thankful for groups like VentureWell and the Lemelson Foundation who do so much to encourage and support early stage innovators.”

Haley Keith
Co-founder of E-Team Mito Material Solutions

“This year, I am extremely thankful for all of the people who are smarter than me. All of the advisors, investors, entrepreneurs, and friends who shared their wisdom and lifted my co-founder and me up this past year to heights we could have never imagined. I’m thankful to be surrounded and encouraged by their honesty, resilience, and experience, which has led me to be a greater woman and entrepreneur.”

Emily Kennedy
Co-founder of E-Team Hedgemon

“I am thankful for the Headspace meditation app. Building a business is stressful, but this app helps me stay relatively sane!”

Tara Loomis
Senior Program Officer, VentureWell

“I am most thankful for my spouse, Jennifer, and my daughter, Annabel, and the lessons they teach me every day that have helped me to be a better person.  From Jen, I have learned to be more patient, kind, and empathetic. From Annabel, I have learned the importance of a growth mindset, grit, and tenacity.”

Elisa Mai
Senior Development Officer, VentureWell

“What a year this has been! Against this challenging backdrop, I’m thankful for the people and organizations doing vital work to uncover injustice, advance equality, promote liberty and tolerance, protect our planet, create art, alleviate suffering, and foster peace. I am so inspired and heartened by their work. On a personal note, I’m thankful to be working every day with smart and dedicated colleagues in an organization that is helping to solve rather than exacerbate the world’s problems. And, not least, for the many supportive people in my life – I feel incredibly lucky to have their love, wit, and cheer.“

Samir Mayekar
Founder of E-Team SiNode Systems

“I am thankful for the dedication of the SiNode Systems team. Working in a science-based startup requires many sacrifices. Long hours in the lab, frequent travel to collaborate with our partners, and a scrappy mindset to do more with fewer resources. The unifying factor motivating the team is our desire to enable a world powered by clean energy, and that mission fuels our dedication to SiNode.”

Mary Raber
Assistant Dean for Academic Programs for the Pavlis Honors College at Michigan Technological University

“I’m thankful to be working at a university that is embracing innovation & entrepreneurship and is helping students develop the skills they will need to make a positive difference in the world.”

Raja Schaar
Assistant Professor of Product Design at Drexel University

“I’m thankful that I took a chance in moving my family 850 miles to join Drexel’s faculty last year. On a weekly basis, I’m overwhelmed by the spirit of collegiality and interdisciplinary innovation on this campus. I have a number of exciting projects underway, and Venturewell has certainly played a part in helping gain a foothold here.”

David Scott
Director, Evaluation, VentureWell

“I’ve spent the past several years dedicated to unpacking what it means to create social impact and how to measure what good looks like when you are trying to do that. With that in mind, I’m so thankful to have joined an organization, VentureWell, that is committed to driving social impact through innovation and entrepreneurship and that our partners trust us and depend upon us to do that effectively.”

Marc Sedam
Associate Vice Provost for Innovation and New Ventures at the University of New Hampshire

“This year, I am thankful for my daughter’s softball team. I took the role as head coach and made a commitment to the team and to myself that the team was my top priority regardless of what was going on at work. Our team went from one win the year before to league champions, but I remain thankful and grateful to a group of 12 year olds for reminding me of the quote—’We make a living by what we get, but we make a life by what we give.’”

Tim Shores
Platform Analyst, VentureWell

“I’m grateful for the forest, for people who promote sustainable forestry practices, and for people who wage ongoing struggle against natural and anthropogenic deforestation. My grandkids will depend on the success of their work.”

Steve Tello
Senior Associate Vice Chancellor for the Office of Entrepreneurship & Economic Development, and Associate Professor of Management & Entrepreneurship at University of Massachusetts Lowell

“I am grateful for the encouragement and support afforded to me by past mentors, inside and outside of higher education. In 1989, the executive director of a small human services nonprofit in Massachusetts introduced me to Apple computers. He let me explore their application to the field. This led to my interest in multimedia, the internet, and eventually online education.  It is important that as leaders, we remember that showing interest, encouraging exploration, and supporting the interest of younger team members may lead to new and unexplored ventures.”

Grant Warner
Associate Professor of Mechanical Engineering and Director of Innovation for the Graduate School at Howard University

“I am thankful for the opportunity to have traveled to Asia and Africa over the last year to support Lean Startup boot camps. I have shared my experience, and learned from participants’ exploration of venture creation in their local context. It has highlighted how much stronger the similarities between cultures are than the differences.”

Phil Weilerstein
President and CEO, VentureWell

“I am grateful to be part of the VentureWell community. From the visionary funders who support our work to the broad networks of creative people who work to bring new ideas and opportunities to life to the dedicated staff who bring their enthusiasm and energy to making our communities thrive. It’s a unique privilege to be immersed daily with people who are making the world a better place.”

Each person’s reflection relates to their personal or professional lives, yet a common thread is evident: we’re grateful for connection. Connection to family, friends, colleagues, or to strangers doing good work. These reflections illustrate that our ideas and dreams are made possible by the support and encouragement of one another.

Looking ahead to 2018, we’re grateful for the continued support of funders, partners, members, teammates, and colleagues who collectively help us make the world we’d like to see a reality.