Some people can’t quite figure Brentt Baltimore ’10. Others, when they find out the work he does and what he’s sacrificed to do it, know all they need to know about what kind of a guy he is.
You see, Baltimore, 24, is making news for having turned down a six-figure job at a Los Angeles hedge fund in favor of a $33,000-a-year position at a venture capital firm in Detroit––despite having $38,000 in student loan debt.
A recent story in The New York Times pointed out that Baltimore is “part of a small group of recent graduates who are forgoing large salaries to work for start-up businesses” in Detroit, Las Vegas, Cincinnati, Cleveland, New Orleans and other hard-pressed cities around the United States.
And TIME’s “Business & Money” section just reprinted a post that first appeared on the Drucker Exchange, a daily blog produced by the Drucker Institute at Claremont Graduate University, about Baltimore’s unorthodox career path of sacrificing salary in favor of making an impact in distressed communities.
Baltimore was accepted as a fellow in Venture for America (VFA) program’s inaugural Class of 2012 and has been working for the past year with one of the program’s branches, Detroit Venture Partners.
Venture for America whose credo is “Mobilizing Graduates as Entrepreneurs,” is a nonprofit designed to do for entrepreneurship what Teach for America has done for education––provide a pathway for young, talented grads to become business builders and job creators in areas of need. It’s just the kind of organization Baltimore believes can make a difference in struggling communities.
“The opportunity to follow my passions for entrepreneurship and ‘paying it forward’ are what motivated me to go for this job,” Baltimore says. “I felt like this was a once in lifetime opportunity, and the correct timing––as I was coming off a two-year stint in investment banking––for me to not only join a great program in Venture For America, but also bring my skills to a community that needed them most.”
And Baltimore may be, right now, just where he is needed the most. Late last month, a judge decided that Detroit’s historic bankruptcy filing will move forward to federal court.
“My thoughts on the Detroit bankruptcy are two-pronged,” Baltimore says. “On one hand it is extremely sad, as many ‘Detroiters’ will be affected by it through lost jobs, and pensions that won't be paid, etc. On the other, and this is where my choice to join Detroit Venture Partners comes in, the work that I'm doing here and the startup scene will become that much more important. We are one of many organizations in the area that are helping to rebuild Detroit––for us, through funding entrepreneurs and helping them grow the businesses in Detroit. And that is very exciting.”
Although Baltimore would not characterize eschewing a big salary for making a difference in a community as a “calling,” he may be in the vanguard of a new trend.
“I think there are a lot of young, talented and motivated people that continually think about making the choice that I made,” he says. “There are a host of reasons why they may be reluctant to make the decision to jump into something that is risky and uncomfortable. But I can honestly say, it is one of best decisions I've made in my life thus far.
"I've had a rare opportunity at an early age to truly follow what I'm passionate about, and I hope that my story can give those who are on the fence that last push to jump out of their comfort zones.”