Organization: Defy Ventures

Location: Location Flexible, USA

Express Interest

About Defy Ventures:

What would it be like if you were only known for the worst thing you’ve ever done?

Defy Ventures (Defy) is an entrepreneurship, employment, and character development training program for currently and formerly incarcerated men, women, and youth. Defy recognizes that many former drug dealers and gang leaders can become successful, legal entrepreneurs. Defy “transforms the hustle” of our currently and formerly incarcerated Entrepreneurs-in-Training (EITs) by offering intensive leadership development, Shark Tank-style business plan competitions, executive mentoring, financial investment, and startup incubation. We give our EITs a legitimate chance to succeed and equip them to become profitable entrepreneurs, stellar employees, engaged parents, and committed role models and leaders in their communities. Defy intentionally builds life-giving, authentic community between EITs and executive volunteers as they bond in their humanity.

Since its founding in 2010, Defy has served 2,000+ EITs across 18 states and engaged 3,500 executive volunteers in 26 prisons nationwide. Defy has incubated 166 of our graduates’ startups, which in turn have created more than 350 employment opportunities for people in their communities. Grads have a 95% employment rate, and Defy’s recidivism rate to date is less than 5%. (Nationally, 76.6% of people are rearrested within five years of release.)

Defy has earned the trust of funders like Techstars, Google, Facebook, eBay, TD Bank, Capital One, Bloomberg, LinkedIn, Yelp, and American Express. Defy has been showcased in national media, including The Harvard Business Review, Tech Crunch, Success Magazine, Fast Company, and San Francisco Chronicle.

Defy’s Founder and CEO, Catherine (Cat) Hoke, is an Ashoka Fellow, and was named by Fast Company as one of the 100 Most Creative People in Business. She was awarded by WIRED Magazine and Nokia as one of the “Top 17 Global Influencers Expanding Human Possibility Through Technology,” and received the MDC Partners Humanitarian Award.

Defy’s long-term goal is to end mass incarceration; Defy’s goal for the next 10 years is to serve in every prison in the United States and offer post-release services in every major city. We are crazy driven to level the playing field and to bring redemptive opportunities to America’s biggest underdogs. Our hatred of injustice fuels our impatience. We plan to serve 10,000 incarcerated men, women, and youth in the next three years. With a current budget of $6M, Defy is poised for rapid growth.

This is where the President comes in. Defy is seeking a seasoned leader, manager, strategic thinker, and planner to work in close partnership with the Founder and CEO to rapidly expand Defy’s footprint and impact across the country. The President will manage the organization internally and serve as an inspirational, collaborative, and strategic leader who is ready to change the world by translating vision into action and measurable outcomes. The President role is a full-time position with the option for a flexible location.

For more information on Defy Ventures, please visit

The Opportunity:

Defy is in a pivotal stage of growth as an organization. The President will have a unique opportunity to lead a fast-moving organization with a team that is passionate about transforming lives and creating opportunities for people with criminal histories, one of the most stigmatized and over-looked populations in our country.

S/he will deepen a highly mission-driven culture of accountability, responsibility, collaboration, and respect that reflects Defy’s Core Values:

  • Bring Justice
  • Partner (Not Pity)
  • Love Hard
  • Transform Legacies
  • Challenge Perceptions
  • Grow Courageously
  • Honor Commitments
  • Own Mistakes
  • Stay Scrappy

Key areas of responsibility for the President include:

Organizational Management and Leadership

Serving as the organizational manager, the President will oversee all day-to-day activities, effectively managing assets and providing leadership to the staff. The President will be comfortable setting priorities, making decisions, working closely with the team to identify solutions to complex problems, and ensuring accountability across the organization. Though the President will be focused internally, s/he will also represent Defy externally with some constituents, and thus should be comfortable and effective as a spokesperson and relationship builder.

Finance and Operations

The President will work in partnership with Defy’s CFO/CIO to oversee financial and operational management, ensure the organization’s financial health, and implement processes that facilitate growth and efficiency. Using data and metrics, the President will identify opportunities for improvement and implement systems to address them.

Strategic Planning and Execution

Key functions of the President will be developing, implementing, and executing on the action plans that allow Defy to achieve growth in scale and impact. As Defy responds to the changing landscape and opportunities, the President will be responsible for leveraging those moments while staying true to long-term strategies. The President will ensure that all of Defy’s stakeholders and constituents understand how their work connects to a broader vision and that they have the support and resources necessary to embark on life-changing work with urgency and deep resolve.

Thought Partnership

The President will serve as a key partner and collaborator for the Founder and CEO regarding growth, methodology, innovation, marketing, fund development, Board relations, and a wide range of additional initiatives and priorities. Bringing deep knowledge about organizational best practices, the President will strengthen Defy’s internal functions.

Candidate Profile:

Strong candidates will bring the following skills and personal characteristics to Defy:

Skills and Experiences:

  • Demonstrated experience managing highly functioning teams and complex organizations at the senior level and during periods of change
  • Business and management acumen with the ability to set priorities decisively, delegate responsibilities, assure accountability, and allocate resources to ensure results
  • Experience driving measurable, rapid growth, including the ability to codify programs and operational systems for replication
  • Expertise hiring and managing diverse teams at all levels of an organization
  • Financial and operational acumen, including a metrics- and data-driven approach to decision-making
  • The ability to translate vision into action through strategic planning and execution
  • A big picture view coupled with the ability to get micro when necessary to ensure that all aspects of an organization are working in alignment toward a common goal
  • Exceptional communications skills, including interpersonal and written communication and the ability to be an excellent listener

Personal Characteristics:

  • Entrepreneurial mindset and approach with a knack for creative problem-solving
  • Professional maturity and a strong sense of self
  • Optimism – a sense that changing the world is not only possible, it’s necessary
  • Deep integrity, humility, and ethical core that drives trusting, collaborative relationships and encourages and inspires constituents; strong sense of judgment
  • The ability to partner with a visionary by helping to operationalize ideas and put them into action
  • The ability to give and receive feedback directly with an open mind and a strong sense of empathy and compassion
  • Deep cultural competence, including the ability to work with a wide range of stakeholders, from incarcerated people to executive volunteers to high net worth donors
  • The discipline required to prioritize without the rigidity that can close off new ideas
  • The ability to lead in an ambitious and spirited culture that is passionate about redeeming lives and restoring communities and is marked by heart, empathy, and resolve

Defy’s next President believes:

  • Nonprofits should be run with business-based practices and a focus on results
  • That success is about contribution, not just control
  • That anything is possible, including ending mass incarceration in this country
  • When you make a commitment, you do everything in your power to honor it
  • Great ideas can come from anyone at any time; you just need to be open to them
  • Every one of us has potential and deserves justice and opportunity
  • That no one should be known only for their biggest mistakes

Ideal candidates will bring at least 10 years of senior management experience in a fast-growing, entrepreneurial environment, as well as demonstrably strong financial and operational skills.

Although Defy is a 501(c)(3) nonprofit, they take pride in their application of corporate best practices and operate as a lean, results-oriented organization. This high-impact opportunity is perfectly suited for a candidate looking to transition out of the corporate world as well as nonprofit leaders who bring a business lens to mission-driven work.


Molly Brennan and Melissa Madzel of Koya Leadership Partners have been exclusively retained for this search. To express your interest in this role, please submit your materials here or email Molly directly at All inquiries and discussions will be considered strictly confidential.

Defy Ventures is an equal opportunity employer and strongly encourages applications from people of color, persons with disabilities, women, LGBT applicants, and applicants with criminal histories.

About Koya Leadership Partners:

Koya Leadership Partners is a national retained executive search and human capital consulting firm that works exclusively with nonprofits and social enterprises. We deliver measurable results, finding exceptionally talented people who truly fit the unique culture of our client organizations and ensuring that organizations have the resources and strategies to support them. For more information about Koya Leadership Partners, visit