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Venture For America

By: Paige Palmer, Design By: Rachel Kosnik

Many Fisher students can boast a common goal: working at the company, firm or corporation they feel will earn them the fame and fortune they deserve, and hopefully start them off on the path to business success. For some students, this is ideal, but it’s important to remember this isn’t the only path ahead.

Working for a startup company can also provide serious benefits and lead to a more developed skill set, and students are beginning to find these startups through an organization called Venture for America.

In their own words, Venture for America is “creating economic opportunity in American cities by mobilizing the next generation of entrepreneurs and equipping them with the skills and resources they need to create jobs.”  Through a highly selective, intensive interview process, graduating college students from around the country are selected to become fellows for two years in the program, being placed at a startup in one of 18 ‘emerging cities’ all over the country.  According to Ohio State graduate and current Venture for America fellow Mallory Michaelis, who is currently based at TeamSnap, a sports management application company based in Boulder, Colorado, these “aren’t cities that a lot of college grads would look into, so Venture for America is looking to disperse talent throughout the US to help the economy as a whole.”

The process begins when the application opens in August, with the final deadline in February. Interviews follow, culminating in the final round at selection day, which includes interview rounds as well as challenges with other candidates. “It was a very grueling day, and the most intense interview process I’ve ever been in,” says Michaelis, “but I learned a lot from it.”

From there, fellows are notified several weeks later of their acceptance and granted access to a portal where all Venture for America partner companies are listed in order to apply for positions, based on the role itself, the type of company or the location. The process culminates in training camp over the summer, that VFA calls a “five-week program that prepares you to excel in a fast-paced, high-intensity startup environment.”

With training completed, VFA fellows travel to their respective startups to begin their two-year paid tenure at companies that vary from tech trendsetters, to healthcare innovators to clothing companies. In addition to the job itself, the VFA network is also there to support fellows along the way.

“So far I definitely see so much support,” Michaelis says. “For example, there [are] two older fellows that work here at TeamSnap and they’ve been a great resource for me to go to for anything I need […] Not only having them here at my company, but having other fellows here in the Denver area [and] also throughout the United States.”

VFA emphasizes the large role that the fellow network has, giving fellows the resources to start their own company after completing the program, if they wish.

So why opt for the smaller startup over the large, multinational corporation? “I think working on a startup definitely gives you a more holistic view of the business since you’re not as isolated within your department,” Micahelis says. “For fellows that are working at startups where there are only 2 to 10 employees they’re really hands on and being thrown these huge projects they might not have a lot of experience in […] it just expedites your career because you’re being thrown in different situations all the time and forced to step up your game and learn things you might not have been expected to learn until 10 years down the road.”

More students are looking to have this kind of hands-on, startup experience than ever before, and with the growing amount of new businesses in the US, these positions are more available than ever, with the U.S. Census Bureau reporting that startup business created 2.5 million new jobs in the U.S. in 2015. Whatever a student’s plans are for the future—starting their own business, working at a dream corporation, or even seeing a startup into maturity—working as a Venture for America fellow gives graduates the wide foundation they need to see success in any career path.