Message to All VFA Applicants

Message to All VFA Applicants

Thank you for considering applying to become a Venture for America Fellow. Your interest says a fair amount about you as a person– enterprising, motivated, and looking to have an impact.

My belief in you and the potential of our country’s best and brightest is why I founded Venture for America. I know that what makes the biggest difference on the ground is having the right combination of people. A core group of smart, energized individuals has been behind every success story, in business and every other realm.

I want to acknowledge a painful truth that the number of applicants to Venture for America will far exceed the number of Fellowships. At present, we will be able to offer approximately 150 Fellowships for 2015. The precise number is indeterminate because we are continuing to identify new companies that want to hire a Venture Fellow, and the circumstances of companies change in both directions (i.e. a company that is committed in August may not have the resources the following March, while another company may successfully raise money and be newly interested).

Our expectation is that over a thousand individuals will apply for the Venture for America Fellowship in 2014 – 2015, resulting in a very low offer rate.  An offer rate this low means that we are by definition going to miss out on many exceptional candidates.

In recognition of this, if you are a finalist for the Venture for America Fellowship and find it appealing, we will share your information with start-up companies around the country that have opportunities for recent graduates. There are many growing businesses that will want to talk to you. In this way, we hope to connect a larger number of applicants with early stage companies that could use a talented, energetic hire.

As for the awarded Fellowships, in a standard admissions process, you look for candidates who have certain qualities to the extent you can discern, and you select the individuals who perform above a certain level.

Here, the number is so small and the needs are so distinct that we are almost looking for specific individuals. That means that applicants can do everything right and possess a phenomenal set of attributes and still not be selected.

First, we will consider three threshold questions:

1. Does this applicant satisfy a particular company’s requirements? Each Fellow will be working for a real company that has specific needs. As we review candidates, we will have the companies’ needs in mind. Yes, if you are an engineer or programmer you will likely have a better chance at getting a closer look, though we expect over half the positions to be non-technical in nature.

2. Does this person satisfy our program’s requirements? We are looking for individuals with high records of achievement in academic, athletic, extracurricular, personal, or business contexts. Basically, we believe that the virtues of talent, work ethic, attitude and character are transferable to the early-stage business setting, and are seeking individuals who have demonstrated the ability to be successful in whatever they have done to date. Venture for America is also seeking to build a diverse group of Fellows in terms of geography, major, gender, ethnicity, socioeconomic background and other considerations.

3. Would this candidate represent Venture for America’s values and mission and serve as a role model and example to others? Our mission as an organization is to rebuild American cities through entrepreneurship, enable our best and brightest to create new opportunities for themselves and others, and restore our culture of achievement to include value creation, risk and reward, and the common good. Any startup entrepreneur will tell you that an organization’s culture is crucial to its success – we feel the same way.

Beyond these qualifications, we will ask “Is this person likely to be okay with failure?”  Entrepreneurship, start-ups, growth companies, cities in transition, human relationships – none of these things are linear or certain.  Venture for America is the real world.  We’re not a great fit for people who want sure things or controlled environments.  We’re looking for people who can grow through genuine uncertainty, ambiguity, and adversity and come out the other side stronger, whole and ready to contribute.

Only if the answer appears to be a clear “Yes” to all of the above will a candidate be considered past the initial submission. We expect that the vast majority of candidates will not make it past the first stage.  The subsequent rounds will consist of a video submission  as well as a phone interview, each of which will yield a proportion of the remaining candidates. The final stage will consist of an in-person Selection Day in New York with Board members and established entrepreneurs; if you make it to Selection Day there is still a substantial chance you will not receive an Offer.

If the above sounds forbidding or discouraging, we want to be forthright in what are looking for. We will be working hard to find the right candidates who will be able to make a real difference in the success and development of an early stage company and contribute to the economic and cultural revitalization of our country.

Best of luck in applying, and looking forward to meeting some of you in the coming months.

Andrew Yang

CEO and Founder

Venture for America