Meet Jonah Erlich - a Next Gener with a heart for service. After founding two nonprofits in high school, he is now the co-founder and President of Upround Venture Capital which provides interdisciplinary venture capital education in Michigan.
Tell us about the two nonprofits you started in high school.
High School 101 is an online and in-class educational initiative dedicated to preparing students for success in school. HS101 teaches study skills, organization skills, and helps students find their motivation. We provide online videos and in-class seminars at over 30 schools from Detroit, to California, to Shanghai. High School 101 is currently being run by Sophia Gawel. Sophia is an incredibly talented, execution-driven high school senior. She will be attending Dartmouth this fall.
Daven Downtown sold T-Shirts to support the Isaac Agree Downtown Synagogue, the last remaining synagogue in Downtown Detroit. My sister, Sophie Erlich, and I cofounded Daven Downtown and raised a few thousand dollars to help the synagogue.
You're the co-founder and current president of Upround Venture Capital. Tell us about it - why did you start it?
UpRound was founded after 6 Michigan students attended a venture capital simulation at Carnegie Mellon. Our team was half women and half men. We had three engineers, two liberal arts students, and an information science student. Our opponents were all male business students from Carnegie Mellon, UPenn Wharton, NYU Stern, and a few other business schools of similar caliber. We ended up winning the competition by a significant degree and credit this success to our diversity both traditionally and academically. We decided to create a similar competition internally at Michigan to provide interdisciplinary, undergraduate VC education and to engage the broader venture community with Southeastern Michigan. I’ve attached a report detailing the impact of this competition. Following the success of this competition, we decided to expand UpRound into the organization it is today.
You love helping others. Where did this urge for service come from, and what's your best advice to others hoping to share their gifts and talents in the form of help, too?
My desire to help others comes from my parents. It was something they always emphasized through both words and action. As I grew up and began to see the world outside of where I came from; I started to see how fortunate I was to grow up in such comfort. I firmly believe we can create a world where my baseline can become the average, eventually even the minimum. In terms of advice, reach out to a lot of interesting people and listen more than you speak. You don’t learn anything when you’re speaking. Through listening, you can understand others needs. This will inform how you can help or how you can leverage your network to help. I've found that helping others, regardless of reward, is not only personally fulfilling but also tends to help later in ways you can't see at the time.