A new organization called Venture for America will visit the University on Oct. 17 in an effort to convince students to apply for a fellowship offered for the first time this year. This fellowship will provide graduates with jobs for two years at startup companies in cities such as Detroit, New Orleans, and Providence.
“Over the years we’ve seen hundreds of enterprising college students who wanted to get into startups but didn’t know how to take the first step, which in my experience was the most difficult,” said Founder and President of Venture for America Andrew Yang. “So we thought we could build a bridge between the two groups to connect the [students] and the companies.”
Venture for America, which was founded this past July, aims to help college graduates find entrepreneurial jobs while also creating jobs and stimulating the economy in lower class cities. College graduates can apply for one of approximately 50 to 60 fellowships to work in Detroit, New Orleans, or Providence at a startup company for an annual salary of between $30,000 and $35,000. Applications to the fellowship will be accepted until Nov. 28.
“You can sort of think of it as Teach for America for startups,” Yang said.
Venture for America will have the winners of the fellowship gather for a five-week training program at Brown University before they are sent out to one of the three cities in which they will work. For those two years, members of the program will live together and participate in business discussion sections in addition to working at a startup company. At the end of the two years, one fellow chosen by the Venture for America staff will be given $100,000 to start their own business.
“It’s been tremendous—we’ve already had over 700 people who’ve applied for fellowships,” Yang said. “We knew there was a high level of interest among college graduates to learn how to help businesses and create jobs and also to be able to help resuscitate US city economies. We’ve been getting support from every angle and you can see how people would want a program like this to succeed because it helps everybody involved.”
Other staff members of Venture for America have been similarly enthusiastic about the new program’s successes.
“I think Venture for America is in an incredible place right now, especially given that our official launch was just a mere three months ago,” wrote Venture for America Recruitment and Social Media Associate Brielle Beaudette in an email to The Argus. “We’re about halfway through our major recruitment tour for this season, with high hopes that more and more college seniors will take advantage of this great opportunity and apply.”
After having visited several other college campuses, including Harvard and Yale, to encourage students to apply for fellowships, Venture for America will come to Wesleyan next week. In addition to encouraging students to apply for the fellowship, they also plan to promote the organization as a whole. Yang, whose brother graduated from Wesleyan, is looking forward to Venture for America’s upcoming visit to campus.
“I think Wesleyan is a very good fit for this program because, to generalize, [students] are smart and socially conscious,” Yang said. “I’m excited to spread the word to Wesleyan students about this opportunity.”
This visit has produced an enthusiastic response within the Career Center, which is sponsoring the event. The Center first heard about Venture for America on National Public Radio, which inspired the center to invite the new program to campus to discuss the fellowships.
“I’m really excited about Venture for America and am really excited that they’re coming to campus,” said Career Center Operations Coordinator Rachel Berman. “I think it’s a great opportunity for students who are interested in entrepreneurship to really dive right in with a salary and make a difference in the world of small businesses—and eventually gain some skills which will really [be important].”
The Venture for America event will take place on Oct. 17 from 6 p.m. to 7 p.m in Usdan 110.