I was first introduced to Venture for America when I met its founder, Andrew Yang on a New Orleans rooftop in 2012 (thank you, Chris Schultz and Andy Weissman). The mission — help recent college graduates learn how to build businesses by placing them with growing startups in emerging cities — instantly resonated with me. Before moving to NYC in 2010, I had lived my life mostly in “emerging” startup cities (Pittsburgh, Raleigh, DC, Chicago, London, New Orleans); and twice, first in undergrad, and then in grad school, taken jobs in private equity and consulting, respectively, partially out of the difficulty in finding roles in startups outside of the traditional college recruitment process. Venture for America (VFA) struck a chord, and I pledged my support going forward.
For the last three years I’ve had the honor to help VFA in a couple ways. I taught at VFA’s summer training camps, month-long sessions where the VFA team and guests teach the new VFA Fellows a mixture of hard and soft skills to prepare them for their next two years working at startups. I helped with final interviews at Selection Days. I regularly talk to current and past Fellows to offer advice on joining a startup or starting one of their own. I also have helped with financial models, something that I’ve worked on a lot over the years and have a product specifically aimed at startups that over 12,000 people have downloaded over the past 5 years.
After leaving my role in venture capital last summer, I traveled, wrote, worked on consulting projects, and talked to people about what I should and could do next, and I listened to myself. I’m good at understanding technology and societal change and how it creates business opportunities. I’m good at helping people think about new ideas and potential businesses at both the strategic and tactical levels. And I’ve always spent time working with entrepreneurs, far before I worked as a VC. I knew wanted to continue to learn and help entrepreneurs build businesses.
After spending more time with Andrew and the broader VFA team this past fall and learning more about their grand plans to help “smart people build things”, I joined as Investor-in-Residence, supporting VFA in their efforts to help Fellows make the transition from employees to founders. Three years in, many of VFA’s Fellows that have finished their two years in the program are now starting businesses, raising capital, and making the transition from employees to founders. They are building companies in Detroit, New Orleans, and many of the cities where they started their careers. In my new role, I’m able to play a big part in helping them start companies. I’ll be helping VFA accelerate Fellow-led companies and invest in many of Fellow-led companies, facilitating introductions, providing strategy assistance, and helping them navigate many of the issues involved in starting companies.
As with many “in-Residence” roles, this is a part-time role, and I’ll be continuing to take on projects and advise startups outside of my work at VFA. Nonetheless, “in-Residence” roles can be valuable and meaningful, and I’m excited to be taking a significant role in supporting the growth of VFA Fellow-led companies.
I always advise people looking or deciding on new roles to maximize for the people you get to work with and the things you get to do and learn everyday. It’s the aggregation of the thousands of daily interpersonal and professional experiences that shapes the big experiences that determine who we become. Great jobs come through deep relationships, directly and indirectly, and knowing Andrew and the team for the last couple of years made the decision to join easy.
While VFA is a nonprofit (the first time I’ve worked at a nonprofit), it acts and operates like any forprofit company I have ever worked with. The drive, pace, and intellect of the passionate, committed, and extremely talented VFA team has made for an easy transition to working for a nonprofit. I chose to work with VFA because of their mission and because of the people driving that mission. I couldn’t choose a better team to help change the face of entrepreneurship in America.
Here’s how you can help Venture for America, and if you have any questions, email me anytime:
- Become a Mentor. Share your experience with a gifted, passionate, aspiring entrepreneur, and join VFA’s mentor program. Email firstname.lastname@example.org
- Hire a Fellow. If you’re an entrepreneur in one of the VFA cities (Baltimore, Cincinnati, Cleveland, Columbus, Detroit, Miami, New Orleans, Philadelphia, Providence, San Antonio, St. Louis, and a couple more coming soon) consider becoming a partner company and hire a Fellow. Details here, and email email@example.com for questions.
- Donate to VFA. Donate here, or email firstname.lastname@example.org.
- Come to the annual Summer Celebration, next one this June 4th, 2015 in NYC.
- Join VFA. Openings here.