There are no established prerequisites to entrepreneurship; no perfect blueprint for success that firmly states which school an aspiring business owner should attend, if at all, or what they should study. There’s no exact path to acquiring the skills you need to make it as a successful entrepreneur, but Venture for America (VFA) strives to provide exactly that to its Fellows. Through hands-on startup experience, educational resources and support, Fellows are equipped with the necessary tools to launch companies, create jobs and contribute to community growth in cities nationwide.
“We’re a Fellowship program for recent college graduates who want to work at a startup and contribute to job creation in some of America’s emerging or re-emerging cities,” said Leandra Elberger, Director of Communications & Events. “The idea is that economic opportunity and cities grow through the success of small businesses. We’re facilitating that growth by matching high-potential college graduates to high-potential startups in high-potential cities. We’re ushering in the next wave of entrepreneurs to these cities.”
One such graduate is Max Eisenberg, a 2012 VFA Fellow, whose company, ActionStreamer, is making big strides in tech wearables in Cincinnati. During his time as a Fellow, Max was placed with CincyTech-supported Ilesfay, where he obtained startup experience and met his future co-founder and then-boss, Ilesfay CEO Chris McLennan. VFA helped Max get his foot in the door, and he’s since taken off running.
“I feel extremely fortunate that VFA opened its doors in 2012, right as I was contemplating my post-grad path. Options for going directly into a startup from undergrad were few and far between, so I nearly chose a job I wasn’t passionate about,” said Eisenberg. “When VFA came on my radar, it was an instant fit, a combination of my interests in entrepreneurship and urban revitalization coupled with the promise of a tremendous network of like-minded peers, advisors, etc. I couldn’t have picked a better place to start my career.”
Another goal of VFA is to help reverse the “brain drain” many cities have experienced over time. VFA placements aim to redirect high-potential talent away from the handful of cities that have captured top-level college-educated graduates and toward opportunities at high-growth companies in cities like Cleveland, Detroit, New Orleans and Philadelphia. In Ohio alone, VFA operates in three cities, Cincinnati, Cleveland and Columbus.
VFA puts its Fellows through a five-week training camp to prepare them to be impactful entry-level startup employees, and then Fellows spend two years apprenticing with an entrepreneur and working full-time as a salaried employee at a startup. Throughout those two years, VFA continues to provide its Fellows with educational programming and mentoring, as well as activities like pitch competitions to help them develop their own potential business ideas.
And it pays off. Companies are consistently pleased with the VFA Fellows they bring on board.
“Venture for America Fellows have a persistent ‘can do’ attitude that makes them versatile and valuable, said Ry Walker, CEO of Astronomer in Cincinnati. It’s a testament to VFA that when we made the tough decision to cut our team in half last year, all four of our VFAs made it through that cut. They are important to what we’re doing here.”
The ultimate goal of Venture for America is to usher in the next wave of entrepreneurs. When Fellows are ready to start a company, VFA provides a suite of resources—from crowdfunding competitions to an accelerator program and investment capital—to help these Fellows make their dreams a reality.
Max Eisenberg is just one of several successful Fellows VFA has supported in Ohio and across the nation. Are you next?
Applications for their Class of 2019 opens in August. Check back here for more details.