HOW venture for america is changing the way top college graduates think about their careers
Dozens of startup companies in a handful of cities across the US. have reached out to Venture for America and its talented, driven class of recent graduates. Venture for America recruits its annual class of fellows, trains them in a five week startup boot camp on the campus of Yang's alma matter, Brown University (topics include sales, SEO, financial analysis), and matches them up with a startup where they spend two years developing their entrepreneurial skills while adding great value to the company.
The organization has been growing rapidly, both in terms of an expanding and competitive applicaiton pool (550 applicants this year with just a 16% acceptance rate), and its partner cities (expansion plans for next year include St. Louis, Pittsbrugh, and New Haven). We caught up with Anh-Ton Tran, one of this years fellows, to get an better inside look into Venture for America and how he and other fellows are taking the right step to understanding the delicate balance between paycheck and passion. Full interview and infographic in read more.
I always knew that typical business route was never for me. I wanted to make an impact and I wanted to see that impact. I did a consulting internship and had a great experience but realized that I could never be supremely happy there. I also always knew that I wanted to help people as well ever since I read Banker for the Poor by Muhammad Yunus. There's this social desire and this building/creating desire inside me and I had a goal of finding out what it was I am truly passionate about and using that to help people in some way. VFA provided the best avenue for it, and taught me something: if you can't find the thing that you're passionate about, make it yourself. That's what I'm hoping the fellowship will help me figure out how to do and that's what drew me to it.
What was the fellowship training like?
Training was such an amazing experience. Imagine Start-Up weekend but for 5 weeks and then a whole lot more lathered up on top. We do a lot of challenges where you basically have to be creating a solution yourself. VFA also brings in a lot of really interesting speakers that teach you everything from how to pitch a venture idea, the thought process behind people who are investing in you, design, a crash MBA course, everything. You are also surrounded by peers who humble you in the most profound ways because everyone has something different but amazing to bring to the table. I don't think I've ever been around that many inspiring and bright as the people in my class. I looked up to everyone which is great, it pushes you very hard. I think all in all though the experience is unique to each individual, and something they tell each of us is that training camp is a "journey into your own incompetency" which I could not agree with more.
What was the matchmaking process like, was it effective or easy?
Matchmaking was quite a whirlwind experience for me. I think it was exceptionally stressful for me because a lot of things overlapped with Finals Week, then Senior Week, then Graduation and I forced myself to be 100% for all of that. Something people should realize is that VFA is a young organization and is a start-up in and of itself. This is both comforting because they completely understand this culture that they are trying to teach to us, and stressful because they are working out a lot of kinks. Basically they try to match you up where you are most needed while also making sure you are happy with where you are at. I won't go into what the process instead I'll attach an infographic (seen below). But it really depends on who you get matched to. Some people get there first match and its done, or you're like me and visit five different companies and each have varying standards. Meanwhile you have the VFA team in NYC coaching and coordinating you so all that communication between three parties can be hectic.
What company/city have you been placed in and what is your role there?
I will be in Cincinnati working at Lisnr. Lisnr is a music/tech start-up, we embed inaudible frequency beacons into audio content. If you have our app we it can pick up the beacon and push relevant content to your phone. Think Shazam but it adds value instead of just identifying stuff for you. I will be doing Business Development for them, so basically signing Artists to our technology and helping them develop unique experiences off this platform to connect with their fans.
What do you hope to get out of the program besides experience?
I think what I hope to get out of the program is a really strong network and the skills it takes to start something yourself. Doing Start-Up Weekend, Training Camp, it's all taught me that it takes a lot to create something that people love. The most important ingredient is a great team, because to be honest all good ideas have been thought of really. It's all about execution and I want to A.) have the skills to execute well and B.) Find awesome people to work with so we can execute exceptionally well together. Beyond this I really want to see the social impact I can make in 2 years in Cincy. You see some of it right now with all of the buzzing start-up activity happening in the OTR region of it and its continuing to grow. I want to visually see an impact I can make in the community there and hope to get that out of the program as well.