Jessica Straus isn’t intimidated by lofty-sounding dreams. Her career has spanned public policy, tech, entrepreneurship, and social impact — all with a focus on enabling the next generation of innovators across the U.S. to make big ideas happen.
Currently the Vice President of Development for the Venture Capital Association and a Young Executive Advisory Board member for the Nasdaq Entrepreneurial Center, Ms. Straus has a long history of turning ideas into action. She began her career in Washington D.C., where she served as the speechwriter and deputy press secretary to former House Majority Leader Eric Cantor and as a legislative correspondent to Congressman Michael Burgess with a focus on policies impacting entrepreneurship and economic growth.
Today, along with the NVCA Board of Directors, she manages the Diversity Task Force to advance inclusion in the venture capital industry and broader innovation economy. Her passion for expanding inclusion in venture capital and entrepreneurship stems from her experience leading communications for SocialFlow, a venture-backed social media platforms, and from advising the Millennial Trains Project, a mobile incubator for young change-makers to launch projects that support diverse communities.
The Center sat down with Ms. Straus to talk more about her vision for a better future, in conjunction with the TED2016 Dream conference. Starting February 15th, TED2016 and the Nasdaq Entrepreneurial Center invited dreamers across the world to share their own visions for the future on Twitter. (Dreams tweeted with the hashtag #myTEDdream had the chance to be featured on the Nasdaq Tower in Times Square on February 18th during the TED2016 Dream conference.)
Here, Ms. Straus shares what more inclusive and innovative ecosystem might look like:
How do you hope the world will change in the future?
I hope there will be greater integration of art history and technology across global education systems. Platforms like the Google Cultural Institute, Black Contemporary Art, and Artsy have paved the way for digital art history immersion. I hope we see more platforms bringing art history to broader audiences. I’ve always loved art. I’m excited about how augmented reality and other technologies can bring visibility to the importance of art in shaping global understanding of different cultures and histories, influencing how we move forward together.
If you had the power to build a better future, what problem or challenge would you tackle?
I was really inspired by a vision for re-inventing education offered by Megan Smith, U.S. Chief Technology Officer, that she relayed from an educator she met. Most schools ask students to make bread at some point, but each time, students are asked to mix flour, salt, and water without understanding how the disparate parts actually work together. If I had the power, I would contribute to an education system where the integrated and whole experience is always visible, tangible, and being re-invented as learning occurs. In this world, English, film, science, music, computer science, math, athletics, and art all work together. Improving our education system accordingly has so many positive and cascading effects.
How are you working to turn your dreams for the world into reality now?
I am still trying to understand how disparate parts work together in life. Life, like the current education system, doesn’t present a finished, comprehensive product to assess. It’s constantly in flux. What excites me are constant opportunities to create connections where there were none before. With our team at NVCA, I work to advance the U.S. venture capital industry, which is one of the key drivers of competitiveness, creativity, and innovation at home and globally. To move an industry forward means drawing together entrepreneurs, investors, government entities, scientists, artists, and others. A thriving innovation ecosystem can and should influence our education system.
What is your biggest hope for humanity?
My biggest hope for humanity is for mutual respect and understanding. That we will all strive – as institutions and individuals – to honor the humanity of every person.
Jessica Straus is the Vice President of Development at the National Venture Capital Association. Prior to NVCA, she worked with the venture capital industry to shape public policies, entrepreneurial ventures, and ecosystems. She came to the innovation sector after serving as the speechwriter and deputy press secretary to former House Majority Leader Eric Cantor, press assistant to the Senate Health, Education, Labor and Pensions Committee, and as a legislative correspondent to Congressman Michael Burgess with a focus on policies impacting entrepreneurship and economic growth.
The Nasdaq Entrepreneurial Center is a San Francisco-based non-profit that provides aspiring and current entrepreneurs with access to quality resources, including mentors, training, and networking.