Young entrepreneurs find success through Cleveland’s startup scene
Having just graduated from college, many students are faced with a range of options. For some, the first priority is to land their dream job, but for others, the path to the right company and the right position is less clear. In order to find more learning opportunities and customize their on-the-job experience, graduates like Peter Spaulding have turned to the Venture for America Fellowship program which matches applicants with a high-growth startup that’s making a difference.
“After I graduated college and I was deciding what to do, I thought, ‘Hey I’m 22 years old, this might be the best way to learn as much as possible—just drink through the firehose,’” said Spaulding. “With eyes wide open, I just tried to take in everything and help wherever I could. Luckily, the company I was matched with kind of gave me the keys to the kingdom and put a lot of trust in me early on.”
Part of the first group of fellows to go to Cleveland, Spaulding was paired with live video streaming company, BoxCast, which simplifies event streaming for organizations around the world. With the early-stage startup, Spaulding’s skills as a political science major at Yale University came in handy as he was tasked with supporting the BoxCast team in a number of different areas from customer support to business operations.
“The really nice part of starting at BoxCast was the breadth. I could see what I was good or terrible at and I was able to find my fit while trying to create some value for the company,” said Spaulding. “Early on, I was involved with anything operational— from hopping onto customer service phone calls or finance-related tasks, I got to see from end-to-end how the company was working.”
After preparing fellows for their match with a five-week intensive training, Venture for America provides a network of support during and after the two-year program. At BoxCast, which is supported by Ohio Third Frontier partner JumpStart, Spaulding and the two other cohort members that matched with BoxCast have extended their experiences beyond the two-year mark.
“I’ve stayed on because there are tremendous opportunities here,” said Spaulding. “It was a big step to get a job outside of the New York’s and the D.C.s, but I think going outside my comfort zone was big for me. The VFA fellowship is great because everyone is in the same place—you’re all figuring it out as you go, and you immediately become a part of a family in this new community.”
As a collective of builders and leaders, the VFA fellowship complements the startup communities where they lay roots. Spaulding said he has noticed this particularly within the Cleveland network.
“You get to know the startup community a lot better in Cleveland because it’s more approachable and really well-connected. Anybody that you meet could introduce you to another entrepreneur or someone who is working for a different startup,” said Spaulding. “BoxCast has received support from a ton of local entrepreneurs here. People are looking to lend a helping hand to other companies that are trying to grow.”