A Conversation with Vogt Awards Selection Committee Chair, Monique Quarterman
Monique Quarterman is arguably one of Kentucky’s most recognized leaders in innovation. She recently took on the role of Deputy Executive Director of KY Innovation, the statewide entrepreneur support organization that’s part of the Kentucky Cabinet for Economic Development. Prior to that, she served as the first Executive Director of Kentucky Commercialization Ventures (KCV), a consortium of organizations whose purpose is to provide commercialization services for state universities. This year, the Community Foundation of Louisville is proud to have Monique step into the volunteer role of Chair of the Selection Committee for our 22nd annual Vogt Invention and Innovation Awards.
We sat down with her to talk about her background and experience, the evolution of the Vogt Awards, and why she is excited to be part of this unique grant funding and startup accelerator program.
Please give us a brief description of your background and experience.
I am originally from Hardin County, Kentucky. When I was in school at University of Louisville, I got a position at the Office of Tech Transfer, and that started my career in innovation. I spent some time as an entrepreneur, and I have worked with startups and the community. I have even consulted with both large and small business, as well as government. When KCV opened up, I thought it was a great opportunity to serve across the Commonwealth. My new role with KY Innovation, leading the office of entrepreneurship, is great because it is a mechanism by which I’m able to influence and support more of the small business innovation programs across the state.
What made you want to get involved with the Vogt Awards?
I heard that Dr. Angelique Johnson, who has been part of the selection committee for several years, had done some work with the Vogt team on how to increase access and outreach, allowing more startups to interact with and engage with this program. Dr. Johnson is a wonderful innovator in our community — she owns an engineering firm here in town and has achieved wonderful things. I consider her a mentor and worked under her at her firm at one point in my career. So, that was a big reason I was interested in this opportunity. She has star power (laughs).
Vogt is very much a leader when you look at philanthropy-based venture programs, especially in this area and, in some cases, the nation. It makes so much sense that Vogt would step up and look at barriers to access, and how to reach and serve more of the community through this wonderful venture resource.
You mentioned the expansion of eligibility criteria this year. Why is that so significant?
One of the areas that I work in often is inclusive innovation. I’ve been very fortunate through my work with KCV, but also through work with NIH and CDC, to focus on innovation projects that are access-focused. So, how can we take new solutions and serve more people by leveraging them in our community?
When we talk with our federal partners in Kentucky about the importance of equity, diversity and inclusion in innovation, it’s essential in order to have a competitive United States that we encourage our New Majority (as Melissa Bradley would say) communities to be a part of the process and support them along the way. So, to hear that Vogt was opening up and changing its guidelines with an emphasis on access, I was excited to be a part of it and very happy to be serving as chair this year.
Why do you feel the Vogt Awards are a vital part of the entrepreneurial ecosystem?
Vogt represents the community — particularly entrepreneurial families and individuals — seeing the value of entrepreneurship and startup development and getting involved in it directly. For Vogt to be an evergreen fund and tie back to the Vogt family’s decision more than 20 years ago to invest in startup development right here in Louisville, I think it’s a phenomenal example of how innovation is a priority to our state and our communities. Vogt is a great example of the residents of Louisville, Kentucky, taking a leading role in helping the startups of tomorrow come to fruition.
What do you think makes the program stand out among other funding and accelerator programs?
Vogt stands out because it is early stage. I love the fact that it is an opportunity for founders to earn some of the earliest funds in their business — without having to give up their business. There are plenty of different financing tools out there, but some of them have a tendency to be expensive. Vogt’s deliberate decision to be one of the least expensive ways to pour funding into your business early is attractive to me.
What are you most excited about as Selection Committee Chair?
I am certainly most excited for all of the wonderful ideas that will come from every corner of our community. When we broaden access and we encourage more Louisvillians to share their excellent ideas and empower them with the resources they need to build them, that’s a room that I want to be in the center of.
I love being trusted by the community to help them in their journey and to advise them along the way. I think this partnership with Vogt, and serving as chair this year, is an excellent opportunity to do this together. I’m ready to hear some great ideas that are going to change our world.
Why do you think the community should support funds like this, or even start a fund at the Community Foundation to support entrepreneurship in a similar way?
That’s a great question. I would encourage anyone in our community who may be looking for their next mission to get behind to really consider venture development. To have an area of community where you’re not only putting in money and making a donation, but you’re helping people to build in their community, hire people in their community, put them in good paying jobs — that is an investment that lasts forever. The Vogt Fund is a great example of that. The Community Foundation of Louisville has a long, strong history of supporting this innovative mechanism. So, if anyone out there is looking for a way to support their community in a way that lasts, they should consider doing something similar.
What would you say to encourage people to apply for this program?
I would tell them that Vogt offers a first step. It offers an inclusive, open, first step where you can get the critical first dollars into your business that you need to build it into a success. Oh, and by the way, because it’s tied to philanthropy, the goal of the Vogt program is to support the founder, and allow them to continue to own as much of their company as possible. When they exit the program, they still have this wonderful asset. We’re looking for founders who are committed to working hard to earn that first investment into their business. So, if you are ready for hard work, if you are ready for your idea to help the community and make it better, this is a good first step in your journey. There are plenty of examples of companies that have started their journeys with Vogt and went on to be very successful.
Is there anything else you would like to share?
For members of this community who have been on the verge of trying angel investment, Vogt is a great example of a program that they can follow, be a part of, celebrate alongside, and get really energized about their role or future role as an angel investor. Of course, the state of Kentucky incentivizes people to get involved in venture investment, and we need more people across our community, like the Vogt team, that are involved in taking community dollars and pouring them into startups. If anyone out there has ever considered an instrument to either raise funds for their business or support businesses through philanthropy, this is the year to really get involved and pay attention.
To learn how you can apply to the 22nd Annual Vogt Awards, visit www.vogtawards.com/.