Catherine helps ex-cons return to society


It’s an early Saturday morning, and 31 business executives and money managers are mingling in a New York City classroom with 31 ex-convicts who have served time for burglary, drug dealing, and attempted homicide.

Catherine Rohr is thrilled.

The former venture capitalist has brought the criminals and executives together as part of her new nonprofit group Defy Ventures, aimed at helping prisoners reenter society by putting them through a yearlong entrepreneurship training program and “Survivor”-like competition for $100,000 in seed money to launch their own businesses.

“I have these moments of thinking, ‘Is this really happening?’ ” Ms. Rohr says. “I love business, I love doing deals, but I know why I’m here on Earth.”

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