An entrepreneur since he founded a web hosting company at 16, Jesse Middleton (Drexel, 2010) loves waking up to a new, exciting and difficult challenge every day. Brother Middleton is a venture capitalist who finds companies to invest in and supports the founders and their dreams. He is the General Partner for Flybridge, whose mission is to partner with talented entrepreneurs to help them succeed in developing their companies. He is also the co-founder of WeWork Labs, an incubator program similar to Flybridge that guides entrepreneurs in the initial stages of starting a company.
“The best part of my job is being a helpful part of the journey of many, many companies and the founders of those companies. As a child, I always did well with problem-solving and now I do it every day. I’m doing what I love and I’m good at it.”
Growing up in rural Pennsylvania, there wasn’t much to do except play outside. When his parents bought him his first Texas Instrument word processor, he became more globally aware and was whisked away from the farmlands and fields behind his house. “My parents were both small business owners. Their influence [and my aunt’s push on the importance of college] was what drove me to build my own company, attend Drexel and take an interest in venture capitalism.”
Brother Middleton chose Drexel for its co-op program and liked the idea of living in a city. Once he moved to campus and started school, he became actively involved with the Delta Rho chapter. “AEPi helped me come out of my shell. I went from being introverted to being an extroverted leader with an open-mindedness about things. AEPi truly taught me life skills in selling and basic business practice.”
Following graduation, he consulted for companies around the world in China, Mexico, Israel and the United Kingdom. Many of the partners and investors he worked with were Israeli or Jewish, so Judaism started to have a larger presence in his life than when he was a child. “I would not have recognized any of this without AEPi.”
In 2010, he moved to New York City and became the head of information technology at LivePerson. “I became involved in a number of startups in New York and befriended a number of investors who helped me start WeWork Labs. Over the years after building up WeWork and investing in small companies in New York, I realized what I wanted to do with my career was invest in founders of very young companies.”
WeWork’s purpose is to enable creators to enjoy what they do every day. Members pay to have access to a workspace as well as the people that work inside of said workspace. “The idea is that you move into the workspace and utilize the skills of others while they utilize your skills. You build one another up and help each other create what you need for your company. You quickly go from being an individual doing the thing you love to being a part of a group that is looking to see an organization succeed.”
Flybridge is similar in helping business owners get to where they need to be. Rather than providing the space and resources, general partners work with business owners to provide the funds needed to make an impact and develop the business.
Brother Middleton’s philosophy is that by investing in startup companies, we can ploy people to be innovative and have an impact in saving the world. “To me, the thing you love to do, not the thing you have to do to put food on the table, is most important. I can see myself doing this for the rest of my life and don’t see this slowing down anytime soon.”