We can help you start a company
We believe every Fellow has the potential to build something great. But we know how hard it is go to it alone. That’s why we’ve developed resources to help our Fellows become founders at every step of the journey.
Whether you’re toying with a fledgling idea, developing a side project, or preparing to launch a company, we have the resources, programming, and network to help you succeed.
We have the track record to prove it. So far our alumni have launched 33 companies that employ more than 145 people. Fellow-led ventures have participated in Y Combinator, the Microsoft Ventures Accelerator, TechStars, and more.
Here’s how VFA can help you succeed.
If you think you might want to launch something, Side-Project-a-Thon (we call it SPaT) is the place to get started.
Think of SPaT like an accelerator for ideas: 36 hours of collaborating with your fellow Fellows on the problems you want to explore and solve, hopefully laying the groundwork for a real side project. SPaT happens every summer during the VFA Reunion, when Fellows and alumni gather at Training Camp for a long weekend of building and learning together.
An annual crowdfunding competition with up to $40,000 in prizes, the Innovation Fund has kicked off some of our favorite Fellow-led companies, projects, and community initiatives.
During the Innovation Fund, participants work closely with our Launch team to refine their idea, set a fundraising goal, devise a plan, and then spend four intense weeks raising money for their projects.
The crowdfunding competition gives Fellows an early read on the market for their new business and an infusion of investment funds. We’re not talking small change: in 2016, 11 Fellow-led teams raised over $80,000. The Innovation Fund helped launch companies like Pinch, Arthur, and Ash & Anvil.
We know it isn’t easy to turn a side project into a full-time job. Among other things, building a company takes time, space, and support from people who have been there. Enter: the VFA Accelerator.
For four months, participants spend their time in Detroit living and breathing their company. With help from the team and a wide range of industry leaders, Fellow founders can focus solely on building their fledgling companies. From connecting Fellow founders to advisors, to providing them with space to work, to helping them figure out the legal stuff, the Accelerator is all about guiding new founders down the path to success.
Wondering about access to capital? We’ve got that covered, too.
The VFA Seed Fund provides an early boost to Fellow-led companies with real potential. Each year, graduating Fellows have the chance to submit companies they’re working on, and the most outstanding receive seed investments from the UBS Venture Catalyst Awards, a pool of over $150k.
Social Enterprise Award
Fellows interested in tackling societal challenges and improving their local communities have access to up to $20,000 annually. We bring in expert trainers and experienced social entrepreneurs to explore ideas, and a panel of judges selects top projects to receive funding.
For more established Fellow-founded companies, we connect them with the VFA Angels, a group of dedicated angel investors who think our Fellows have what it takes. They represent VFA supporters and angel investors excited by the VFA mission.
When you’re ready to raise funds, you’ll have the opportunity to pitch your growing business and gain access to the capital you need to grow.
Whether you’re a Fellow or alum, the VFA community will support you as you build your company. From mentors who have been there, to team members who will proofread your marketing campaigns and weigh in on hiring decisions, we make the process of launching a business a lot less lonely.