Venture For America Will Do For Entrepreneurship What Teach For America Does For Education

Sending young entrepreneurs to companies outside of major cities gives struggling economies an infusion of new talent, and budding business people a chance to be at the front lines of innovative startups.

Schools and startups in economically challenged areas share a similar problem: a difficulty in attracting and retaining young talent. Teach For America has worked for decades toward fixing the education issue by placing top-notch college graduates in struggling schools. Venture For America, a nonprofit that launched this week, aims to do the same thing--but for startups.

Like Teach For America, VFA will bring promising college graduates to work in underserved communities for at least two years. Startups that focus on up-and-coming industries (i.e. education innovation, energy, biotechnology) will be offered a VFA fellow for a salary of $32,000 to $38,000 annually. At the end of the two years, the companies can opt to hire fellows under new terms.

Venture For America already has a number of companies who have expressed interest in hiring VFA fellows, including an independent music licensing startup in New Orleans, an energy management company in Providence, and early-stage VC firm Detroit Venture Partners. "There is an emphasis on companies that have the capacity to grow," says Andrew Yang, VFA founder and president (and former entrepreneur).

The 2012 class of VFA fellows will go through a rigorous application process, which will include submitting peer and faculty recommendations, business plan submissions, and case studies. Accepted fellows will undergo a five-week entrepreneurial boot camp at Brown University before heading off to their respective assignments.

Yang believes that many students will want to stay at their assignments even after the initial two-year period. "These fellows are going to end up in the midst of a really exciting ecosystem and they're all going to have access to all the entrepreneurs in the region," he says. And unlike recent graduates working in startup-heavy areas like Silicon Valley, the VFA fellows will find themselves "at the forefront much earlier on."

For the first year, Yang anticipates 5,000 applicants. That's a small amount compared to Teach For America's 46,000 applicants, but the latter organization has been around for 20 years. And VFA is already planning on expanding to new cities--Yang is currently in talks with Newark, NJ.

"The primary driver [for applicants] will be the desire to get into startups and learn how to build businesses," he explains. "It's not easy to find that experience out of college."

[Image: Flickr user cletch]

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6 Comments

  • Floyd Prince

    The beauty about TFA is that it is geared to both rural and urban underperforming schools. These schools have a significant need, and hence a great potential for growth. It seems that by virtue of the industries selected, and the target areas that VFA is bypassing the communities that need this resource most, and is focusing on industries where that have significant access hurdles. I definitely could this resource for my business that I have been trying to get off the ground, but VFA's Startup definition excludes my company.

  • Classifieds

    The right idea in general.  Be more precise the correct: somewhere there is a surplus of specialists, somewhere there is a drawback. But if this initiative will take a global character, in the end, all this can lead to degradation of professionals. I'm talking about this: a delicious place to work revolves a lot of qualified specialists, thus, there is a higher level of competition. This means that you need to squeeze out of a 100% capacity to remain afloat. Will they work the same way outside the major cities, that is the question ...

  • Kirk Alice

    I paid $32.67 for a XBOX 360 and my mom got a 17 inch Toshiba laptop for $94.83 being delivered to our house tomorrow by FedEX. I will never again pay expensive retail prices at stores. I even sold a 46 inch HDTV to my boss for $650 and it only cost me $52.78 to get. Here is the website we using to get all this stuff, PennyOrder.com

  • Alyssa Magnotti

    Awesome idea! I love this - such a win win situation, for the cities that will be getting the brain power from these grads and the grads that get the experience! Love it! 

  • Taylor Smith

    This looks really cool.  As a rising college senior, I'm really excited about this program.