Defy Ventures’ mission is to transform the lives of business leaders and people with criminal histories through their collaboration along the entrepreneurial journey.
Defy’s programs harness the innate entrepreneurial talents of people with criminal histories and redirect them toward the creation of legal businesses and careers. Defy has demonstrated the effectiveness of an “inside-out” solution to the problems of recidivism and mass incarceration that allows Defy to journey with incarcerated “Entrepreneurs-in-Training” (or “EITs”) from serving their prison sentence to economic independence. Defy provides rigorous employment readiness, character development, and entrepreneurship training inside prisons, a “warm hug” back to society that eases the reentry process, and robust post-release services including job placement, executive mentorship, startup incubation, and “Shark Tank”-style pitch competitions with prizes of up to $15,000 in startup capital per business. Think of Defy as Khan Academy meets Techstars for people with criminal histories. Leveraging a blended learning model, Defy combines the scalability, efficiency, and cost-effectiveness of video-based training with life-transforming opportunities for growth through in-person coaching and mentoring. The result: EITs “defy the odds” and break generational legacies of poverty and incarceration.
Defy has proven its ability to generate transformative change through Chapters in New York City, San Francisco, Southern California (Los Angeles/San Diego), Colorado, and Nebraska; a National Distance-Learning Program that has served formerly incarcerated EITs in 24 states; and an in-prison program that has served incarcerated EITs in 28 correctional facilities. To date, Defy has served 2,300+ currently or formerly incarcerated EITs with impressive results, including a 3.2% recidivism rate and a 95% employment rate for released EITs. Essential to the continued growth and success of its programs, Defy has built a tight-knit community of 4,400 executive volunteers who have donated 24,000 hours to coach or mentor EITs. By “transforming hustle,” Defy levels the playing field and brings redemptive opportunities to America’s most overlooked talent pool — men, women, and youth with criminal histories.