Clara Gustafson came to Georgetown not even knowing what entrepreneurship was. She came to study International Relations and potentially work for the government, not knowing that she would leave for a startup four years later after fundamentally changing the startup culture at Georgetown.
Gustafson was a member of GUSA when they initiated Student Activities Fee Endowment reform in 2010. A panel was established to hear student ideas about how to spend a large and previously unused sum of money allocated for student activities. Through this panel and a student body referendum, Gustafson co-founded the Social Innovation and Public Service Fund (SIPS), which she credits with piquing her interest in entrepreneurship. SIPS is a student run venture fund that invests in student and alumni social entrepreneurship. The organization has backed projects such as the Paradise Community Garden Project, which aims to teach DC children about healthy eating and living in a hands-on environment. Georgetown professor Jeff Reid helped her run SIPS and gave her the tools to be successful as an entrepreneur, teaching her not only how to work with executive boards and secure funding but also how to incentivize her team to be creative with socially oriented business ideas.
An employee from the CIO’s office ultimately inspired Gustafson to apply to Venture for America as a senior. Michael Wang, who has since left Georgetown for a startup in San Francisco, encouraged Clara to apply after he met her through GUSA. She knew she didn’t want to follow the classic Georgetown route to consulting or government jobs, instead striving to “be productive all the time, learn really fast, learn a lot of things and also make lots of mistakes,” After being accepted to VFA, Gustafson was placed in Baltimore at a social media cyber security startup called ZeroFOX in August of last year.
Now the marketing director for the rapidly growing ZeroFOX, Gustafson plans to stay and help it grow to its full potential. She knew it was going to be a great fit for her almost immediately; the team is hard working and passionate, and the setting matches the fast-paced environment she sought during her time at Georgetown. Gustafson encourages Georgetown students to look into similarly unconventional and rewarding careers, saying “it’s harder to find but it’s all out there, there are a lot of cool options. You don’t just have to be a consultant.”