The VFA Accelerator launches today!

TarulloBlogHeadshotMike Tarullo is SVP of Corporate Development at Venture for America and program director for the VFA Accelerator.


Our favorite thing about working at Venture for America is seeing our Fellows change and grow throughout their time with us. We meet thousands of aspiring entrepreneurs on campus or early in their careers who say they want to launch a business one day, but don’t know where to begin. Then after a few years with VFA, we’ve seen them grow and are helping them make it happen. It’s hard not to love what we do.

From our first class, people like Brian Bosche and Dan Bloom have gone from first-time startup employees, to cofounders who have already hired five people in Detroit for their company Slope. Chelsea Koglmeier spent two years as a Fellow on the founding team at Roadtrippers, and is now staying in Cincinnati to launch her own company, Bikes of Reckless Optimism. Max Nussenbaum, Tim Dingman, and Scott Lowe went from three recent college grads figuring out the working world to owning a seven-bedroom house in Detroit and managing dozens of properties via their startup, Castle. Brian Rudolph turned a recipe he tinkered with in his kitchen into Banza, now in 750+ stores across the country.

Like many entrepreneurs, they’ve done it pretty much on their own – sure, we were there to help with intros, advice, and an occasional teaspoon of funding, but as they’ll all tell you, it’s a tough and uncertain road.

The truth is, launching a company is hard no matter who you are. Our Fellows are creative, high-character, and scrappy, but it’s hard as a young, first-time founder without much cash. The last thing you want to think about is where you’re sleeping, eating, and working, and it’s even better if you know you’re going to get the guidance and resources you need to get started. When you’re launching a company, you need time, space, and support. So feeling the pressure, a few enterprising 2013 Fellows came to us last summer and said, “Hey, starting a company with a full-time job is hard, and we want the time and space to do it.”

So that’s why we created the VFA Accelerator. In partnership with our lead sponsor, the Blackstone Charitable Foundation, we’ll give six Fellow-led teams the chance to go from side project to flourishing business. We’re covering housing, food, and transportation for our teams, but we’re not asking for equity – there’s no cash, but no catch.

These 2013 Fellows launching their nascent companies will live together in Philadelphia, spending each day based at First Round Capital‘s generously donated coworking and community space. First Round’s investment in Philadelphia’s startup community is showing great returns, and we’re excited to be welcomed in.

Most of all, we’re lucky to have the services of more than forty amazing and diverse entrepreneurs, investors, and builders who will serve as our Fellows’ mentors and trainers as they embark on their entrepreneurial journey. We’d love for you to meet them and learn more about them here. The Fellows will learn about design thinking from IDEO, receive pro bono counsel from McCarter English, and learn about building and fundraising from Chris Fralic of FRC and Dave Tisch of the Box Group. They’ll be shepherded through the process of company building by Taylor Davidson, VFA’s Investor in Residence, and Mat Farkash, our Entrepreneur in Residence.

A special thanks to all our mentors; we’re truly lucky to have your support: Andrew Cleland, Bea Arthur, Brett Topche, Cassie Lancelotti-Young, Charlie Kroll, Chris Fralic, Chris Paik, Christian Anthony, Christian Brucceleri, Darren Herman, Dave Ambrose, David Tisch, Ellie Wheeler, Eric Cantor, Jalak Jobanputra, Jeremy Goldberg, Julie Fredrickson, Karen Kwak, Karen Moon, Keith Petri, Kelsey Morgan, Kimmy Scotti, Leslie Bradshaw, Mary Park, Micah Rosenbloom, Michael Fisher, Michael Jaindl, Michael Lefenfeld, Miles Lasater, Nick Chirls, Peter Stuart, Prabhdeep Singh, Ron Braunfield, Ryan Darnell, Shara Mendelson, Stuart Schultz, Ted Mann, Valeria Maltoni, and Wiley Cerilli!

To keep up with what’s going on with the Accelerator and meet our teams, check back on our blog in the weeks to come or follow along.

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