Stephen Freedman, Ph.D., provost of the University and professor of ecology and evolutionary biology, welcomes the Venture Fellows class of 2012 Photo by Bruce Gilbert

A diverse and pioneering group gathered at the Lincoln Center campus on Feb. 8 as the New York City Economic Development Corporation (NYCEDC) and Fordham University jointly commissioned the Venture Fellows class of 2012.

Twenty-eight Fellows hailing from 11 cities around the world assembled to launch the second installment of the yearlong entrepreneurial fellowship program.

Developed by NYCEDC and Fordham, Venture Fellows promotes emerging business leaders and encourages international entrepreneurs to start or expand their operations in New York City.

The program connects fellows with mentors who are investors, serial entrepreneurs, CEOS, and operational managers from New York City and abroad.

“In an age of increasing competition, we think it’s more important than ever for New York City to retain its edge,” said NYCEDC president Seth Pinsky. “And we believe very strongly that the key to success for our city is to harness the potential of what we refer to as our most valuable natural resource: our smart and talented workforce.”

The 2012 Venture Fellows hail from such fields as bio-med, software, e-commerce, light manufacturing, fashion and retail, and social ventures. Throughout the year, they will work with their mentors to develop key skill-sets and strategies for their respective ventures.

“Having been an entrepreneur without much guidance along the way, I realized how helpful it would’ve been to have a mentor,” said mentor Robert Valdes-Rodriguez, FCRH ’86, a financial advisor for Alliance Bernstein. “I hope to help young, budding entrepreneurs and to serve as their guide.”

Additionally, fellows hope to gain networking opportunities from their mentors.

“I’d like to make introductions and contacts to potential business partners,” said Venture Fellow Christoph Sutter, co-founder and CEO of South Pole Carbon Asset Management, headquartered in Zurich. “I hope to be able to talk to people who know the local market and to take that into the decision of whether to open a branch here.”

The Venture Fellows initiative comes in response to the Bloomberg Administration’s overall efforts to encourage entrepreneurship in the New York City, and by extension, to create more jobs in New York metropolitan area.

“The Venture Fellows program is probably one of the most exciting ventures that we have been involved with over the years,” said Stephen Freedman, Ph.D., provost of the University and professor of ecology and evolutionary biology. “The international outreach that this program provides means a great deal to us. As we expand and extend our Graduate School of Business Administration, we see great opportunities for our students and our faculty to engage.”

“These are really bright, talented individuals working to address major challenges that we’re all faced with,” said mentor John N. Tognino, PCS ’75, chairman and CEO of Pepper Financial Group, and chair of the Board of Trustees.

“More importantly it’s part of Fordham’s mantra of service to others . . . to help someone come up with a solution that will help mankind to overcome some of the problems the world is facing—whether it is in healthcare, or water, or in economic business development,” he continued. “I think there’s endless opportunity.”