News / AOL Blog

AOLer Keegan Forte Talks Volunteerism and Venture Capital

May 2, 2012

Growing up in a family full of volunteers, AOLer Keegan Vance Forte has always been actively dedicated to helping others. From a young age, Keegan would ride her bicycle around her neighborhood delivering goods like books and food to members of the Manhasset Women's Coalition Against Breast Cancer (MWCABC), a local charity founded by Keegan's mother, dedicated to funding innovative research, increasing awareness, and providing support services to those with breast cancer and related diseases.

In her day job, Keegan helps to build new businesses as Chief of Staff of AOL Ventures, AOL's venture capital arm. When discussing what makes AOL Ventures unique, Keegan explains that her team is really dedicated to solving for the structural and organizational challenges that most other corporate VC funds face. "We try and maintain a lightweight structure and organization and tend to make investment decisions quickly – two things that usually don't exist within corporate funds to date," Keegan said. "In addition we really work hard to make sure we only invest in things where we know both AOL and AOL Ventures gets some measurable value out of. Basically it should be a two way street with an entrepreneur - we are attracted to them because of the idea, the opportunity and the fact that we can 'rent' their services without having to buy it. In turn they get access to AOL as a customer and all the knowledge that we have internally to help them build a big business."

We asked Keegan a question she hears a lot, "What does AOL Ventures look for when investing?". She answered, "There's a set of certain criteria that need to be answered like: is there an attractive customer target? Is the company solving a pain point or problem in a unique way? Is there a large and growing market opportunity? Is there a clear path to exit with several natural acquirers?" As a thematic fund, AOL Ventures answers these questions before investing and also mainly focuses on seed and series A investments across 5 key buckets: SaaS (Software as a Service), Local, Content, Mobile and Ad Tech.

When asked about her favorite AOL products, Keegan answered, "Huntsy, which was created by QLabs. It's a tool for frustrated job hunters to help keep them organized and on track during their job hunt. So many people track jobs using excel files or binders which can be overwhelming, but Huntsy is a super simple solution that acts as a bookmarklet on top of your browser. It pulls all of your job information straight into your Huntsy profile to make finding your dream job an easy process." Keegan to no surprise, also admires the work that the AOL cause marketing team does, including the launch of AOL Impact, which connects people with charities, making it easy to get involved, and share the missions of organizations doing amazing things.

When the long work day is over, Keegan continues to work with her mother's charity today, but also spreads her efforts supporting causes like
The Pancreatic Cancer Action Network, Musicians On Call, as well as Bike to the Beach, a century ride benefiting Autism Speaks. Starting in the heart of New York City and ending in Westhampton Beach, Long Island, Bike to the Beach raises funds and awareness for autism while creating a clear message to the public about how many people are affected by the disorder – one diagnosed every 20 minutes. This year's ride, which will take place on Friday, June 8th, marks the third anniversary of the ride, and as one of the directors of the NY chapter, Keegan has been focusing on recruiting cyclists and organizing events in preparation for the ride.

"Bike to the Beach is unique because we're giving people a cause to support, but also offering them a challenge that they can accomplish. We get a few different type of people who participate like those supporters dedicated to fighting autism who think we are crazy for trying to get them on a bike, but do it because it's for a cause they are passionate about. Then we get avid cyclists that want to participate because they want to get another bike ride under their belt, but they end up doing the ride, learning about autism and joining our larger community of supporters."

Interested in Bike to the Beach? The organization is still looking for cyclists and volunteers to get involved. For more information click here or reach out directly to Keegan.