Office Hours: I'm CEO of Dreambound to train people for trade jobs and run a Peppa Pig themed VC meme account.Featured

Hi everyone! I’m Athena Kan, CEO and co-founder of Dreambound! Our mission is to create upward mobility for America by breaking down barriers to vocational careers. Our investors include Union Square Ventures, Collaborative Fund, and Arrive (a Roc Nation company).

Prior to Dreambound, I started the non-profit Coding it Forward, which placed technical talent to modernize federal government agencies (eg Department of Health and Human Services, Department of State) and before that was an investor at 8VC and Dorm Room Fund.

I also post VC memes on @inagfatt, have been trying to perfect homemade bagels, and briefly played on the Harvard curling team.

Ask me about starting a company at age 20, building mission-driven companies, whether to start a non-profit or for-profit, the future of government, or where the labor market is headed.

Follow me @athenakan_

Thanks so much for joining us @Athena!Elphas – please ask @Athena your questions before Friday, September 24th. @Athena may not have time to answer every questions, so emoji upvote your favorites 🔥👍🏾➕
Dreambound sounds awesome, @Athena! I worked on a similar project in the past and I'd love to learn more about how you're tackling the phenomenon where people tend to only consider career paths that someone they know is already a part of. I think breaking this cycle is an important part of uplifting disadvantaged communities.Thanks!
Thank you! It's definitely a phenomenon that we've seen and are working to overcome. We tackle it through: - hosting panels with alumni from different backgrounds. For example, some of our recent alumni include: a veteran now trying to start his own CNA school; a single mother who had her first child in middle school; a recent immigrant from the Philippines trying to start a new career- profiling customers with different experiences on our blog- having career coaches on our team that can build relationships with customers and guide them to different career paths based on their strengthsThere's still so much to do!
Hi @Athena, I'd like to ask you about building mission-driven companies!Some women on Elpha share their personal experiences to get help navigating office culture. When it comes to helping leaders understand the importance of building teams that trust each other and have each other's backs, and recognize empathy, listening, and compassion as leadership-building skills and not "soft" skills, how might you tie the importance of slowing down and learning emotional regulation/stress reduction tools to a business outcome? Thanks.
Great question. Not enough leaders have empathy or compassion for their teams, and then they're surprised that turnover rates in their companies are so high! And turnover is very, very expensive. Soft skills are the most important skills to have when you lead a company. They are the difference between someone feeling comfortable to suggest an idea that changes the trajectory of your company for the better (and your team supporting the suggestion!); being able to intervene when someone is hurting company morale; building a team that pushes through lows to get to the highs.
Thanks for confirming what I suspected!
Thank you for hosting office hours with us Athena! I'm so curious to hear from you what it was like to start a company when you were 20! Did you think your journey was any different because of where you were in life?
Definitely! It was a big learning curve to figure out how to build a team, run standup, and even small things such as negotiating an office lease, filing corporate taxes, etc. Since I was younger, I had very little experience in most of those. The bright side was that being early on in my career meant that I wasn't stuck in bad patterns and had a big appetite for risk taking, very important for starting a company.
If you were to bake your perfect-homemade-autumn-seasonal-bagel, what flavors or ingredients do you think would matter? (P.S. Dreambound is a dream come true from someone who as been dedicated in the space of delivering technology curriculum for those seeking a career change or skills development for young adults. I am such a fan of more meaningful career options and pathways being available!)
Love that :) I've perfected bagels with toppings but bagels with mix ins, novelty bagels, etc I haven't touched at all. Next up on the list is a pumpkin bagel which fits with the autumn theme, but other flavors I'd like to try to make when I get more skilled:- Hazelnut- Chai - Butternut squash & sage ??- Maple fig
I am totally here for the butternut squash and sage (+ any schmear of choice that is born as well!)
How does one start a business at that age? Very impressed.
Thank you! I was very lucky to join a student venture fund called Dorm Room Fund in college, which changed my life. There, I learned that it was possible to start a company at a young age. I knew very little about the startup world at the time, but I became friends with people who had dropped out of college to work on meaningful problems; founders who had raised millions of dollars, and I realized it was possible for me to do that too. I've known for a long time I want to work on helping people climb the economic ladder, but didn't know how to start. Coming out of college, I had the knowledge and network to do so!
Thank you @Athena for doing this! What inspired you to start coding it forward? Is it still active, if so, how do you maintain it with everything else?
I was frustrated that my friends and peers who wanted to use their talents for social good couldn't find any opportunities, so as a result they ended up taking the default path -- consulting, banking, big tech. Coding it Forward started as a job aggregator and online community. We would publicize tech jobs in government, non-profits, and startups with missions that resonated with us. We realized there was a problem, however. These companies that we were profiling often had difficulty competing for talent. Local government, non-profits, startups are all much more resource constrained than Facebook, Google, etc. and couldn't give competitive offers.At the same time, a wonderful, forward-thinking leader at the US Census Bureau reached out to our team to see if we could help him find some summer interns who were software engineers, data scientists, and data journalists. This was an incredible opportunity to shape the future of tech for social good. But, we would have only 2 months to put a whole internship program together. We scrambled, and it wasn't perfect -- but our talented Fellows (who turned down offers at Google et al to participate) were able to make an impact on products that touch every single American. The Fellowship has since expanded a ton. Fellows have worked at the Department of State, Department of Health & Human Services, local governments, building products such as a tool to help veterans claim benefits, ML models for massive government datasets. I'm not involved anymore, but the highly competent, lovely Rachel Dodell and Ariana Soto continue to grow CIF to new heights!!
That's an amazing story, thank you!