Fine Fellows: Max Eisenberg has entreprenuership in his blood

Max Eisenberg, Venture for America fellow, always knew he wanted to be an entrepreneur. Growing up around entrepreneurial culture has been one of his greatest influences; his father, Leo, is an entrepreneur in health care.
During his tenure at Washington University, Eisenberg ran two small businesses—Bear Discounts and Savvy Savings.
During his freshman year, Eisenberg operated Bear Discounts with a friend, in coalition with Wash U’s Student Entrepreneurial Program (StEP)—which allows students to operate businesses on campus.
Likewise, Eisenberg created Savvy Savings, a discount card company, to support the population off campus that Bear Discounts was unable to reach.
"I've always had a great passion for entrepreneurship," Eisenberg says.  "I've always thought that's where I'd wind up."
But with his senior year approaching, Eisenberg was uncertain where he would end up post-graduation.
"Initially, like most grads in the business school, I was looking into consulting jobs, investment banking, basically what everyone says you should go do for two years to get experience," Eisenberg says. "And they're not wrong, so I looked into that."
But in December 2012, Eisenberg stumbled upon Venture for America on a career listing through Washington University.
"I just kind of kept it on my radar as I was applying for different things," Eisenberg says. "Then I was like, 'You know what? Entrepreneurship's really what I want to do. Maybe I should just jump into it right now.'"
And that’s exactly what he did. 
With graduation drawing near, Eisenberg accepted a fellowship with VFA in March, and after a lengthy application and interviewing process, he began applying for jobs, accepting a position at Blue Ash-based Ilesfay in May.
Originally Ilesfay’s project manager, Eisenberg recently became its director of business development. Ilesfay offers a suite of products delivering global value across collaborative workgroups in clouds, between clouds and in private data centers.
Best places to come up with big ideas
While also a frequent visitor to Moerlein Lager House and Green Dog Café, Eisenberg’s thinking usually happens in two places: his apartment building’s roof and in the car.
“I love the rooftop on our building,” Eisenberg says. “[We can] watch the Reds’ fireworks up there. It’s especially cool to go on the weekdays, because I can probably be the only one up there—it’s nice and peaceful.”
But Eisenberg’s commute to Blue Ash each day for work is where most of his thinking occurs.
“It’s sort of unintentional alone time you have,” Eisenberg says. “You didn’t really plan to be alone, but you have nothing else to do.”
Lessons learned while living in Cincinnati
In the few months Eisenberg has been living in Cincinnati, the redevelopment downtown is what he’s taken most notice to.
“I think unless you have a relationship with Cincinnati or you’re really interested in redevelopment—and you’re reading about that—you really don’t know what’s happening in Cincinnati,” Eisenberg says. 
However, compared to Eisenberg’s hometown, Detroit, the size of Cincinnati has proven a challenging adjustment.
“Cincinnati feels small to me,” Eisenberg says. “In trying to figure out why that was, I quickly realized just how large metro Detroit is. I didn’t realize growing up just how large it was.”
Great expectations
Before moving to Cincinnati through VFA, Eisenberg had only one experience with the city.
On his way back to St. Louis for his junior year at Wash U, Eisenberg stopped in Cincinnati with his brother for a Reds and Cardinals game, in which a bench-clearing brawl broke out.
His first impression of the city remained intact, however. 
“I was very impressed by the bones of the city, and a lot of the history and character of the buildings,” Eisenberg says. “Then I was just also impressed by the amount of money being pumped into the downtown area. From that standpoint, I think we’re about three to five years ahead of the other VFA cities.”
What's next?
In addition to working at Ilesfay, Eisenberg is also focusing on another business venture, Jinbu, which aims to help Chinese students develop written English skills.
“We’re targeting Chinese undergraduates applying for U.S. graduate schools,” Eisenberg says. “And Chinese young professionals, whether post-undergrad or post-grad, who are applying for entry-level positions either in the U.S. or for multi-national companies”
Eisenberg founded Jinbu in 2012 during his senior year at Wash U with co-founders Christine Chow and Lauren Katz, with the idea of the company being run entirely online, allowing students to submit written documents—resumes, cover letters and essays—for review.
“When we were doing our research, we found there’s a big need for this sort of thing,” Eisenberg says. “There are a lot of consulting companies—particularly for undergrad—where they’ll say, ‘Hey, pay us like ten grand and we will be your agent to walk you through your entire getting-into-college process.’ But we found that there’s a big need for a slightly more hands-off approach.”
Entering the first ever Venture For America Innovation Fund Competition in May, Eisenberg’s team placed third, winning $4,000 in addition to the money raised in the crowdfunding competition.
The team’s plan is to use top-tier U.S. students for the editing team.
“Students like us are very close to the application process that it takes for jobs and schools,” Eisenberg says. “We kind of take that for granted because we’re so close to it. But for people coming from abroad who aren’t familiar with the process, we can be a big help.”
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Kyle is a freelance writer based in Cincinnati. When he isn't writing, he's making music, riding his bike and taking photos of his adventures.