On Monday night, Sam Rispaud ’15, who has a degree in Neuroscience and Behavior, explained to students why he turned down a career in research in order to become a Venture for America (VFA) fellow.
He came to the University earlier this week as a VFA representative to talk with juniors and graduating seniors about the opportunities available and the application process for the fellowship.
This fellowship, available to about 150 students a year, draws in graduating entrepreneurs from top-tier schools across the nation. They are trained through a five-week program over the summer at Brown University and then placed among start-ups and small businesses in cities across America.
Like Rispaud, many of these students could have pursued other, more lucrative career paths but chose instead to work for lower salaries in some of the more obscure cities of America.
“I knew I wanted to move to a new city, and now was the time to do it,” Rispaud said. “VFA allowed [for] this process.”
Upon asking Rispaud if he regrets his decision, he replied that this has been one of the best choices of his life.
“From talking to people who had graduated and ended up in consulting or working in research labs, a lot of them are trying to get out of these career paths within the next year or two because they are not really into what they are doing on the day to day,” Rispaud said.
He, on the other hand, has found a perfect blend of his interests in his work at Avhana Health, a Baltimore healthcare start-up where he does a mix of software engineering and business development.
Andrew Yang, the founder of Venture For America, explained on the VFA website how consulting and research firms recruit applicants.
“[These jobs] spend a lot of money and resources to send people to your campus to let you know that they are hiring,” the website reads.
Early stage start-ups are unable to afford such publicity. As a result, most of the talent ends up in big-name cities like New York and San Francisco, working high-paying jobs that they are not necessarily passionate about.
“What we offer is a chance to build something, which is what young people desperately want to learn how to do,” Yang states on the VFA website.
This simple idea has carried the VFA program since its creation in 2011 and has led to the success of hundreds of VFA fellows, many of whom have since gone on to start their own businesses. Among these alumni is Daniel Bloom ’10, co-founder of Slope, which according to his VFA profile is “a software product that enables marketing and creative teams to create visual content.”
Another aspect of Venture for America that Yang hopes will develop as a consequence is the revitalization of local economies. Due to the influx of young talent, cities like Detroit and Cincinnati could emerge as modernized and innovative cities leading in turn to further job creation. Venture For America hopes that through this model, it can help create up to 100,000 jobs by 2025.
Rispaud talked for approximately 30 minutes regarding the fellowship, and he described the breadth of opportunity and the mentality required to be a successful candidate.
At the end of his presentation, he opened up the floor to questions. A few seniors asked for tips about the application process, and more specifically what made him stand out as a candidate.
Among other things, Rispaud described how, as a senior at the University, he ran the keg co-op.
“It wasn’t academic but [VFA] still liked it, it displayed my entrepreneur skills in a fun way,” Rispaud said.
Andrew Eom ’16, a Molecular Biology and Biochemistry major, expressed his interest in pursuing a fellowship with VFA upon graduation.
“At the moment, I’m looking for jobs but trying to keep my options open,” Eom said. “Venture for America seems like a good solution.”