The Last Mile & Defy Ventures (2015)

Circle: Economic Opportunity


A model for changing incarceration and re-entry.

The future is challenging for former prisoners: one year after release, 60% are unemployed, and 67% are re-arrested within three years. This has dramatic ramifications for the individuals, their families, and society. Today, 70% of the children of incarcerated individuals follow in their parents’ footsteps. This cycle of incarceration-unemployment-recidivism has a steep price, with an average annual cost of $60,000 per inmate – $9 billion annually in California. Lack of education is a key predictor of entry – and re-entry – into prison.

2015 Defy + TLMThe Last Mile (TLM) and Defy Ventures (Defy) recognize that breaking this cycle has compelling societal and financial benefits, and have witnessed the transformation that occurs when inmates are taught competitive career-building skills. Together, these organizations are providing vocational training and business opportunities for current and former inmates.

The Last Mile is the first technology entrepreneurship and computer programming training program inside a U.S. Prison, representing a unique and innovative approach to recidivism prevention. The goal is to bridge the gap between incarceration and freedom by pairing in-prison software engineer training (HTML, CSS, Javascript etc.) with continued mentorship post-release. TLM currently runs in San Quentin and Ironwood State Prison, with two additional facilities in the pipeline for 2016. Throughout the course of 2015, TLM’s Code.7370 program recruited 15 business partners and 100 volunteers, and contributed over 1000 hours of on-site mentor visits, software engineering training, and curriculum development.

Defy Ventures “transforms hustle” post-incarceration by bringing business leaders and former inmates together for hands-on entrepreneurship training, character development, mentoring, business incubation, financing, and personal development. Defy has educated 400+ formerly incarcerated Entrepreneurs-In-Training (EIT) across 18 states and financed and incubated over 115 startups founded by EITs. As a result of this program, EIT income has increased by 83% and only 3% of participants have been re-arrested. Defy also runs programs in 7 California correctional facilities that have prepared over 300 incarcerated EITs for re-entry and life beyond.


TLM and Defy sought to leverage their successes and common missions by creating a partnership, with the goal of increasing the number of participants, maximizing impact, and streamlining processes. Full Circle Fund provided:

  • Program Analysis – Interviewing key TLM and Defy members to determine the synergistic opportunities, including the applicant process, mentorship, and organizational practices.
  • Best Practice Research – Studying online resources and utilizing lessons learned from Full Circle Fund’s proprietary 15-year Impact Study to determine potential models.
  • Field Research – Engaging with participants to experience each program first-hand. This included custody events, mentoring participants, and serving as judges during pitch competitions.
  • Design Thinking Sessions – Leading ideation and decisioning exercises to generate possibilities, identify challenges, and create joint solutions.


Strategic Alliance

The Full Circle Fund team initially worked to create parameters for a TLM-Defy Ventures strategic alliance. In this newly defined program coordination, incarcerated TLM participants can apply to continue their development in the Defy Ventures program upon release from prison, thereby creating a viable pipeline of participants. Within eight months of forming the alliance, two applicants from TLM were selected to continue their professional training with Defy Ventures post release and many more are expected as the alliance continues to grow.

Impact Index Guide

With a strategic alliance quickly formed between the two organizations, the Full Circle Fund team had an opportunity to explore other ideas that were identified through the design thinking sessions. This led to the Impact Index: a self-evaluation tool designed for organizations that seek to economically empower current and former inmates. For this vision, the Full Circle Fund team developed a guide that documented objectives, potential pitfalls, a timeline, a model for self-evaluation, and related resources. The guide included a 5-step development framework for eventually designing and building a comprehensive impact index for community partners and similar organizations.

The Last Mile and Defy Ventures look to join efforts and expand statewide in California and then nationwide within the next year. Through this expansion strategy, they will grow their volunteer network, community partners, and reentry support.

participating members:

  • WEBID0000002897 Samantha F. Adobe Systems... Marketing Ena...
    Samantha  Fernandez

    Samantha Fernandez

    Marketing Enablement Manager

    Adobe Systems Inc.

    Impact Circle:

    ​ Alumni

    Samantha is a multi-sector professional passionate about technology, economic opportunity and financial access. She is currently a Manager in Adobe’s Marketing Insights and Operations division where she focuses on marketing data, analytics and personalization. Previously, she worked for several years in the social enterprise and impact investing space as a strategy consultant at The Bridgespan Group, a social impact consultancy, and in investor relations and business development at Root Capital, an impact investment fund financing rural businesses in Latin America and Africa. Additionally, she has led a consulting engagement for Acumen, served as an Investment Principal on Haas’ $2M Socially Responsible Investment Fund and ran an ESL tutoring program for immigrant women in the South. In a previous life, Samantha was also a professional-level salsa dancer and all-star level west coast swing dancer. Samantha holds an MBA in Technology, Marketing and Social Innovation from UC Berkeley  School of Business and a BA in Economics and Latin American Studies from UNC-Chapel Hill and Duke University where she was a Robertson Scholar.

  • WEBID0000002832 Sheri L. Wells Fargo Vice Presiden...
    Sheri Lucas

    Sheri Lucas

    Vice President & Business Initiatives Manager

    Wells Fargo

    Impact Circle:

    Economic Opportunity

    In my 16 years at Wells Fargo I have worn many hats with the unifying theme of fostering and executing innovation and change. My proven leadership in these realms has been the result of my creativity, perseverance, resourcefulness, and a knack for engagement and communications, all leading to enterprise-wide programs that are in place today. My passions are problem solving, growth creation, mitigating negative impacts, and advocating for others, representing the foundation for my capable and empathetic leadership style.

  • WEBID0000002972 Ari K. DocSend Head of Cust...
    Ari  Klein

    Ari Klein

    Head of Customer Success


    Impact Circle:


    Ari was born in Argentina and grew up in the midwest. He is dedicated to entrepreneurship and the growth and scaling of B2B software companies. He currently works as the Head of Customer Success at DocSend. Before to DocSend, Ari was working at CrowdFlower where he played a key role in growth, product strategy, and customer success. Even earlier, he’d worked at Cisco Systems as an IT Engineer and at Caterpillar as a Mechanical Engineer. At 16, he built and sold his very first website. Ari holds a BS in Industrial and Operations Engineering from the University of Michigan.

  • Nellie Keyhani Nellie K. Whittier Trust Business Deve...
    Nellie Keyhani

    Nellie Keyhani

    Business Development

    Whittier Trust

    Impact Circle:

    ​ Alumni

    Nellie is an Advisory Services Officer in Whittier Trust’s San Francisco office. Her duties include business development and coordination of marketing efforts and events. She is also responsible for the building and maintaining of professional relationships throughout the Bay Area.

    Prior to joining Whittier Trust in 2007, Nellie spent several years working in the Houston office of Baker & McKenzie LLP. Nellie earned her Bachelor’s degree in Business Administration from San Francisco State University and her MBA from the University of San Francisco.

    Nellie is involved in numerous local and global civic and nonprofit organizations. Her previous appointments include serving on the Young Professionals Advisory Board of UCSF Family House and serving as a member of the Grant Advisory Board for PARSA Community Foundation. Currently, Nellie serves on the Advisory Board for Offerings, a nonprofit dedicated to building local and global capacity to serve individuals with special needs.

  • WEBID0000002894 Robyn G. Darden School... Associate Dir...
    Robyn Guerin

    Robyn Guerin

    Associate Director, Annual Fund

    Darden School Foundation

    Impact Circle:

    ​ Alumni

    Robyn Guerin is the Associate Director of the Annual Fund at the University of Virginia’s Darden School of Business in Charlottesville, Virginia. Robyn relocated to San Francisco in August of 2014 to further her work in development and alumni engagement for Darden on the west coast. Robyn has worked in fundraising and event planning for ten years. She joined Darden in 2011. Prior to her work in higher education, Robyn spent three years in political fundraising and three years working for the National Multiple Sclerosis Society in Washington, DC.
    Robyn is joined in San Francisco by her husband, Hammond Guerin, Data Science lead for Vungle, and their 1-year old daughter Lily and yellow Labrador, Sawyer.

  • Alia Santini Alia S. The Trium Group Manager
    Alia Santini

    Alia Santini


    The Trium Group

    Impact Circle:

    ​ Alumni

    Alia Santini is a Manager at the Trium Group, a boutique management consultancy that helps clients solve their most complex strategic, operational, cultural and leadership challenges. Throughout her career, Alia has partnered with senior executives at global companies to create distinctive organizational cultures. As a true student of culture, she has lived or worked in over seven countries and has served many global clients such as Nokia, Genentech and Flextronics. Before joining Trium, Alia was responsible for organizational development and leadership effectiveness at a global investment management firm. She graduated from Brown University, holds an MA in Intercultural Leadership and was a Fulbright Scholar. In her free time, Alia enjoys international travel and singing in her community a cappella group.

  • denise_Mulle Denise M. Self-employed
    Denise Mulle

    Denise Mulle


    Impact Circle:

    ​ Alumni

    Denise has been a 50% business partner in a Group Purchasing Co-op for 30 years. Though she is retired from her position in the company, she continues to be a partner. Denise graduated from University of Illinois as a business marketing major, worked for two corporations for 11 years before starting her own business. Most of her volunteer work has been focused on low-income service providers and support systems in St. Louis, where she lived for 24 years. Denise is a passionate foodie and cook, having used that skill for homeless cooking projects with her former Girl Scout troop and youth groups. Currently Denise works one day a week in a kitchen for Samaritan House of San Mateo County, helping prepare hundreds of meals for shelters and meals-on-wheels. Denise has had a great deal of experience in planning and chairing fundraising galas, as well as event planning for her former corporate job.