(BBA, Business Computer Information Systems, ’07)
Q & A:
- What was your favorite class, who was your favorite professor, or what is your fondest memory of Hofstra?
My favorite class was a computer networking class in which we built our own computers and then had to hack into each other’s systems. I had done some programming when I was younger but had never attempted to build a computer, nor understand how to gain access to other systems and execute commands on them.
- What was your first job after graduating from Hofstra, and what was the most valuable thing learned in that position?
I was enrolled in ROTC at Hofstra, so my first job after graduating was a United States Army officer. I specialized in reconnaissance/surveillance (Armor branch). I completed various trainings in New York, Oklahoma, Kentucky, California, Georgia, and South Korea. I eventually landed at my assignment station in Colorado, where I assumed command of 30 men and shortly thereafter deployed for 12 months overseas, in support of Operation Iraqi Freedom.
The most valuable thing I learned was perspective. At the time, I did not reflect on the intensity of my experiences overseas. When I got back to the United States and integrated into civilian life, my definition of “stressful” situations changed quite a bit.
There are very few things in life that compare to the stress of a wartime deployment, so having experienced that and learned from it has really been a cornerstone of my development in many ways. In business, it allows me to stay calm and act decisively in pivotal moments, but more importantly in life, it reminds me to take a step back, consider different viewpoints, and act rationally in the most stressful times.
- What is your field of specialty, and how did you come to work in the industry?
My specialty is building deep tech startups. This started with my military experience as an operator of advanced technology. As I was transitioning out of the military, I was fortunate enough to be accepted into a specialized training program run by a world-class company (Cameron-Brooks) that helps junior military officers transition into corporate America. The program culminated in a two-day conference where I interviewed with 14 Fortune 500 companies. Shortly thereafter, I accepted an offer to work at Goldman Sachs in New York City. The leaders in my division at Goldman Sachs sponsored me to get my MBA at The Wharton School while working full-time. From there, I dove head-first into entrepreneurship and explored ways to make a bigger impact in the entrepreneurial community. That’s when a fellow Wharton classmate introduced me to my current partner at Fed Tech, where we run a unique private venture program, funded by federal agencies, that connects entrepreneurs to technologies developed across DoD, NASA, DOE, Princeton University, and other laboratories and universities. We run multiple cohorts per year where successful applicants are paired with lab partners/inventors to serve as founders. Teams work closely with teaching and mentor teams and are taken through modules on lean startup, business models, product development, customer discovery, intellectual property and licensing, funding strategies for spinning out R&D, pitch skills, and more.
- What advice would you give Hofstra students?
1. Listen more than you talk.
2. Be authentic. Life’s too short to not be yourself, so stop worrying so much about what other people think of you.
3. Spend more money on experiences and less on material goods
- In one word, how would you describe Hofstra?
- What was your experience being part of the ROTC program at Hofstra?
I learned a lot from my instructors and fellow cadets. Learning the fundamentals of leadership through experiential training was the foundation of my career. Since I had physical training at 6:30 a.m. three days per week, it forced me to forgo some of the late nights my non-ROTC friends enjoyed. This kept me disciplined and focused on my goals. Spending the summers in Georgia for airborne training and Washington, Virginia, and South Korea for leadership training were a few of the highlights of my ROTC experience.
- What were your duties as second lieutenant in the U.S. Army?
My primary duty was to get my platoon ready for our upcoming combat tour overseas. We did this through intensive physical exercise, training, and skill certifications on our vehicle and weapons systems. We were a newly formed platoon that had to bond and be a cohesive unit in a very short time. Leading a unit when almost everyone under my command had more experience than me was eye-opening and humbling. I made a lot of leadership mistakes, but I learned to listen more than I talked and relied heavily on my team for their counsel.
- Prior to taking on the role as managing partner for Fed Tech, you were a vice president of technology audit for Goldman Sachs. What inspired you to transition to a more entrepreneurial role?
I realized that I wanted to make a bigger impact in a much smaller company and build something with a co-founder. I was lucky enough to be introduced to my partner, who had already founded a startup but wanted to grow and move in a new strategic direction. After meeting many times and having long conversations, it was an easy decision for me to join him and grow his startup. I learned invaluable skills from working at Goldman Sachs, and if I were to stay in the financial services industry, or even corporate America, I’d want to be at Goldman Sachs. The people, professionalism, and culture at Goldman Sachs are second to none.
- What is the single most rewarding experience in your career thus far?
Coming back home from a 12-month deployment with everyone I was deployed with. Having lost some friends in other teams, I feel very fortunate I was able to come home.
- How will your military background help you in your new position as managing partner for Fed Tech?
Grit is a characteristic that I thought I possessed a good deal of prior to entering the military. I learned that I had relatively little. That changed after a few years in the military, where grit was a necessary characteristic to survive, lead, and thrive. As an entrepreneur, there are an infinite number of critical decisions to be made, many of which can make or break your company. Grit is the trait that will help me push through the roller coaster ride of being an entrepreneur.
Jake Kramer is a managing partner at FedTech, a unique private venture program funded by federal agencies that connects entrepreneurs to technologies developed across DoD, NASA, DOE, and other laboratories. FedTech runs multiple cohorts per year where successful applicants are paired with lab partners and inventors to serve as founders. Employees work closely with teaching and mentoring teams, and are taken through modules on lean startup, business models, product development, customer discovery, intellectual property and licensing, funding strategies for spinning out R&D, pitch skills, and more.
Concurrently, Jake serves as a venture partner with NextGen Venture Partners, a network-driven venture capital firm in Washington, D.C. As a part-time venture capitalist, Jake leads and participates in sourcing, investment selection, and due diligence of early-stage technology startups. Prior to this role, Jake was a vice president at Goldman Sachs in New York City. In this role, he led and collaborated on over 65 technology projects covering technology risks across the investment management division and securities division, including managing budgets, resources, and relationships, and delivering projects on schedule.
Jake began his career as a distinguished military graduate from Hofstra University, where he went on to become a captain in the Army. Qualified in airborne, air assault, and reconnaissance operations, Jake earned the Bronze Star Medal for his actions leading teams in the Middle East during a 12-month deployment. Jake earned an MBA in entrepreneurial management from The Wharton School of the University of Pennsylvania, where he was a finalist in the Penn-Wharton Startup Competition.