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Alumni Spotlight: Fred Schonenberg (Class of 1994)
Laine Williams

Today's Alumni Spotlight is Fred Schonenberg (Class of 1994) who is founder of VentureFuel, a strategic partnership firm that helps companies discover and implement new technologies.

Favorite part of your job?

I get to sit at the crossroads of startup founders, venture capitalists and large corporations that are looking to grow in new ways. I am surrounded by the dreamers, the doers and the funders that are collaborating to build tomorrow. Each day is drinking from a firehouse of possibilities and realizing that what's next, is now.

Favorite career achievement?

I launched Rogue Women, an event series with a venture capitalist out of Oregon, that celebrates the trailblazing women who forge new paths making the impossible, possible. It brings together top female investors, female founders and female corporate visionaries. I did it to honor my mom who started her own business when we moved to Birmingham (my role model). From 5th grade at Altamont through to today, I have always found myself surrounded by these amazingly brilliant and dynamic women (from my Altamont classmates to my wife to my sister, Nan Moses class of 2006). We have now done four events from Los Angeles to New York and it has become this incredibly uplifting networking event that I am proud to be a part of.

Favorite memory from your time at Altamont?

The friendships last a lifetime with both teachers and students. Coach Patton flew up to New York for my wedding in 2019. Thomas Goldsmith (Class of 1994) was my best man and several Altamont folks were at the wedding, even though I haven't lived in Birmingham in 25 years--that shows how strong the Altamont bonds are. My favorite memory was scoring 46 points in a basketball game my senior year and the next day Coach Patton talking to me about all the shots I missed. "You could have had 50"--it always stuck with me, that there is room to get better. He treated me the same way if I missed every shot or hit 'em all. Also, reading Beowulf in Martin Hames' senior English class--he made that book come alive for me. I devoured it. I will always appreciate how he could spark a passion for learning in each of us. So many Altamont teachers do that.

How did Altamont prepare you for college and your career?

Altamont was amazing in supporting whatever each student was passionate about. Each of us gravitated toward something and Altamont encouraged that pursuit and exploration. Altamont also expected you to really learn it, dive into it, get good at it, no matter what "it" was. The support to try something, to explore it and expect that you could make yourself an expert at it--that philosophy has allowed me to pursue multiple tracks, start multiple companies and certainly made the transition to college extremely seamless.

What advice would you give to current Altamont students?

Dive into whatever sparks your interest. You have these amazing resources, support and people that are passionate in your success. Explore what brings you joy. Explore what mark you want to make on the world. Dream big. Really big. Altamont gives you an opportunity to do something extraordinary. Take advantage of all of it.

Also, check out Fred's recent interview with fellow Altamont alum David Whiteside (Class of 1997), founder of the Tennessee Riverkeeper, on his VentureFuel podcast.

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