Founder & CEO
Catherine Hoke knows about being a long shot. She was the first girl on the Davis High School boys wrestling team. It was on the wrestling mat that she developed a noteworthy endurance for humiliation (to this day, she owns the school’s record for getting pinned the fastest and the most in her first year). Her bruises and losses prepared her to come alongside others who need to be “scraped off the mat,” shined up, and put back in the fight.
Driven by her hatred for injustice and love for the underdog, Catherine founded Defy Ventures in 2010 after being given her own second chance in life. Defy is a national nonprofit that “transform their hustle” of formerly incarcerated men and women. Defy has produced groundbreaking results, including a recidivism rate of less than five percent, and an employment rate of 95%. Defy has incubated and financed 165 of its graduates’ businesses nationally, which have created 350 new employment opportunities. Defy’s vision is to end mass incarceration by using entrepreneurship as a tool to transform legacies and human potential.
Catherine was named a #MakeTechHuman Agent of Change by WIRED and Nokia for being one of “17 Global Influencers Expanding Human Possibility Through Technology.” Catherine also received the MDC Partners Humanitarian Award on behalf of Defy Ventures (2015). She was named by Fast Company as one of the 100 Most Creative People in Business (2014) and is an Ashoka Fellow (2013).
Previously, Catherine founded the Prison Entrepreneurship Program (PEP), a nonprofit organization that equips men in the Texas prison system. PEP also generated a recidivism rate of less than 5%.
Catherine started her career in private equity, as Director of Investment Development at American Securities Capital Partners, and as an Associate at Summit Partners.
Catherine ended up improving at wrestling, becoming the 1994 California Women’s Freestyle Wrestling State Champion, and still fights Brazilian jiu-jitsu to this day. A three-time marathon runner and former rugby player, Catherine is also quite domesticated and passionately loves sewing, cooking, and painting.