- Drive talent to create jobs and spur enterprise in lower-cost cities.
- Provide a path for entrepreneurship for young, talented college graduates.
- Encourage entrepreneurship in parts of the United States that struggle to attract young college graduates.
Venture for America is modeled after the program that has been the most successful in establishing a new path for young, talented college graduates – Teach for America.
Today, 11% of Ivy League graduates apply for Teach for America. This year, 46,000 college seniors applied for 4,500 slots, allowing TFA to select only the strongest 1 out of every 10 candidates. TFA has achieved singular status, even being ranked as one of the Top 10 places to start a career by Businessweek. Teach for America alums such as Michelle Rhee and Zeke Vanderhoek have achieved national prominence by refashioning educational systems and implementing new ideas.
Young, talented undergraduates apply to Teach for America for a number of reasons. Obviously, they feel that teaching would be a good thing to do developmentally. They want to give back. But TFA also provides them with both structure and flexibility. Applicants undergo a rigorous selection process as undergraduates, and are part of a cohort of ‘corps members’. And TFA alums maintain open-ended options afterwards, either staying in education, going on to graduate or professional school, or transitioning into a job at a top firm.
Venture for America will offer the same sort of appeal to talented undergraduates – instead of teaching for 2 years at an underprivileged school in an underserved area of the country, applicants will vie for the opportunity to work for 2 years at a start-up in a struggling part of the country.
Start-ups will be identified in various parts of the United States, with an emphasis on regions that are currently underperforming in terms of job generation nd growth (e.g. Detroit, Providence, New Orleans, etc.) and industries of great potential or future importance (e.g. energy, biotech, materials sciences, infotech, education innovation, etc.). These start-ups will be presented with the following value proposition:
- Venture for America will send you a “VFA Fellow”, a pre-screened Ivy League graduate who will work for your company at a discounted rate. The Company may interview the candidate beforehand for suitability. The cost to your Company will be only $30,000 per year. VFA will cover the cost of health insurance and other benefits. The VFA Fellow will commit to working for your company for 2 years.
- At the end of the 2-year period, if you like the Fellow you can hire him/her for portable restroom
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whatever position and salary you both agree on. Otherwise, the Fellow will move on after completing his/her term.
For a start-up, this is a good opportunity to get a young, smart employee inexpensively for 2 years. Plus, there will be some informal benefits to being a company participant in VFA (e.g. , if you need 2 or 3 young people, VFA may have a line on some people who didn’t quite make the cut but who still are interested in working at a start-up.). Last, some start-ups will be led by an entrepreneur who would like to mentor a capable young person.
The social benefits of Venture for America are massive. It would funnel a generation of young people toward American start-ups in regions and areas of need. It would socialize young college grads in a manner that would train them to become enterprising and innovative rather than simply internalizing established practices. It would provide structure and community to cohorts of future entrepreneurs. It would firmly establish entrepreneurship as a professional aspiration for our best and brightest.
The goal is that a substantial proportion of the VFA Fellows will become successful entrepreneurs, preferably rooted in the communities to which they’re signed. The benefits can best be summed up by the experience of one person, Charlie Kroll:
IvDj(TMark)m from Ny and always wanted to become a lender. I was ruined when I didnvDj(TMark)t get the financial internship IvDj(TMark)d had my heart established to the summertime before my senior yr. Rather I spent that summer in Providence creating sites for assorted small companies. My senior year I submitted a company plan for my web site-building company to BrownvDj(TMark)s Entrepreneurship Program. I didnvDj(TMark)t win, but my advisor asked me, vDjnDid I actually need to start this firm?vDjk I stated vDjnDefinitely!vDjk therefore he determined to get seed money in my start-up. My company, Andera, went through some difficult times in these first few years. But eventually we created a product for on-line accounts opening that took off. I never believed IvDj(TMark)d still take Providence 9 years later, nevertheless now IvDj(TMark)m resolved here and have a wife and child. And my firm depends on 65 employees. vDj" Charlie Kroll, Brown vDj(TMark)00, CEO and Founder of Andera (www.andera.com)
The goal is, essentially, to replace a wave of value-neutral bankers and lawyers with a handful of Charlie Krolls.
VFA Fellows will be selected through an application process that will include peer and faculty recommendations, multiple interviews, case studies, business plan submissions, and behavioral exercises. The goal will be to screen candidates for qualities that distinguish successful entrepreneurs, including:
- Intellect and Independent Thinking
- Determination/Ability to Surmount Obstacles/Resourcefulness
- Leadership Ability/Initiative
- Communication and Interpersonal Skills
Fellows will express preferences for regions and industries of interest, but will be obliged to accept their assignments. Fellows will be sent in groups to cities to encourage a sense of shared experience (e.g. 4 Fellows would be assigned to Pittsburgh and would live in group housing).
Fellows will be gathered for an Orientation program that will consist of readings and discussions as well as lectures and meetings with experienced entrepreneurs. They will also be gathered for an ‘Intermission’ after the conclusion of the 1st year of their assignment, as well as a one-week program at the conclusion of the 2nd year of their assignment. At the conclusion of the 2 years, Fellows will have the option to participate in a VFA Business Plan competition. The winner(s) will receive a $100K investment of seed money. Over time, VFA will work with established venture capital or angel networks to enable multiple awards and vendor services with each award.
- Charlie Kroll account from Brown Entrepreneurship Program panel, Brown University, October 25th, 2008.