Introducing the VFA Innovation Fund

A message from Andrew Yang:

It’s hard to get started as a young entrepreneur—often much harder than one would ever realize. For me, it took a failed company and years of experience of a startup executive before I hit a point where I could effectively run a company. I started Venture for America in order to give our talented young people a more well-lit runway.

The first 40 Fellows who joined Venture for America are some of the most enterprising young people I’ve ever encountered. Aside from constantly striving to make an impact at their companies in Detroit, New Orleans, Providence, Cincinnati and Las Vegas, many spend their free time pursuing passion projects or trying to improve their communities. Not only did they choose to take the path less traveled to become entrepreneurs and have a positive impact —they continue to create value every day.

Screen Shot 2013-06-12 at 1.03.12 PMWe’re thrilled to announce that thanks to American Express OPEN Forum, a platform for small business owners and entrepreneurs to share advice, our Fellows now have access to the VFA Innovation Fund: a fund created solely to fund the ideas of VFA Fellows. Right now at VFA.RocketHub.com, our Fellows are working to promote their ideas and crowdfund their way to the first $20,000 in funding available only to them. The Fellows that raise the most money between now and July 8th will gain access to the Innovation Fund to get their ideas off the ground.

Please take a moment to look through their projects and see the incredible things our Fellows are doing— teaching entrepreneurship in middle schools, trying to simplify meeting people at networking events, creating an affordable Cincinnati sandwich shop, and more. Over the next several weeks, the Fellows will be seeking advice and support from their networks, and working to raise as much money as possible.

Visit VFA.RocketHub.com today to show your support. Let’s help today’s young entrepreneurs create new opportunities for themselves and others.

VFA on Campus:
Week of January 21-25

Our final deadline to join the Class of 2013 is less than one month away, and VFA representatives and Fellows will be on campus everyday this week to meet with potential applicants and answer all your questions about the fellowship.

Be sure to keep up with our blog and follow us on Twitter to stay up to date on our events!

Tuesday, January 22nd

RIT Info Session
Hosted by 2012 Fellow Rob Solomon.
Rochester Institute of Technology
Bausch & Lomb Center, Room A-190
3:00-4:00pm

Lehigh Info Session
Lehigh University
UC 408
5:00-6:00pm

Wednesday, January 23rd

Villanova Info Session
Bartley Hall, Room 1011
Villanova School of Business
1:00-2:00pm

Swarthmore Info Session
Swarthmore University
Parrish Hall 159
4:00-5:00pm

Middlebury Info Session
Hosted by 2013 Fellow Astrid Schanz-Garbassi.
Middlebury College
McCardell Bicentennial Hall 104
6:00-7:00pm

Haverford Info Session
Bryn Mawr College
Campus Center Room 200
6:30-7:30pm

Thursday, January 24th

Duke Career Fair
Come by the Duke Career Fair to meet 2013 Fellows Shilpi Kumar and Jack Farrell and learn more about VFA.
10:00am-3:00pm

Friday, January 25th

Columbia/Barnard Career Fair
LeFrak Gymnasium
3009 Broadway
New York, NY 10027
9:30-1:30pm

VFA on Campus: Week of January 21-25

Our final deadline to join the Class of 2013 is less than one month away, and VFA representatives and Fellows will be on campus everyday this week to meet with potential applicants and answer all your questions about the fellowship.

Be sure to keep up with our blog and follow us on Twitter to stay up to date on our events!

Tuesday, January 22nd

RIT Info Session
Hosted by 2012 Fellow Rob Solomon.
Rochester Institute of Technology
Bausch & Lomb Center, Room A-190
3:00-4:00pm

Lehigh Info Session
Lehigh University
UC 408
5:00-6:00pm

Wednesday, January 23rd

Villanova Info Session
Bartley Hall, Room 1011
Villanova School of Business
1:00-2:00pm

Swarthmore Info Session
Swarthmore University
Parrish Hall 159
4:00-5:00pm

Middlebury Info Session
Hosted by 2013 Fellow Astrid Schanz-Garbassi.
Middlebury College
McCardell Bicentennial Hall 104
6:00-7:00pm

Haverford Info Session
Bryn Mawr College
Campus Center Room 200
6:30-7:30pm

Thursday, January 24th

Duke Career Fair
Come by the Duke Career Fair to meet 2013 Fellows Shilpi Kumar and Jack Farrell and learn more about VFA.
10:00am-3:00pm

Friday, January 25th

Columbia/Barnard Career Fair
LeFrak Gymnasium
3009 Broadway
New York, NY 10027
9:30-1:30pm

NextGen Journal Features VFA Fellows

NextGen Journal, a “website for the next generation,” is run by a team of college students from around the nation. Every week, the website will feature a fellow from the Venture for America Class of 2012 in its “Future Entrepreneurs” series. If you haven’t already, check out the articles below!

In week one, NextGen Journal featured Chelsea Koglmeier, a VFA fellow who recently graduated from Duke with a degree in Public Policy. Read the article to find out what Chelsea thought of the first ever VFA Training Camp and see why she’s so excited to join The Brandery in Cincinnati.

Future Entrepreneurs: Chelsea Koglmeier Joins The Brandery

 

Next, the series featured Brian Rudolph of Emory University, who seemed destined to become an entrepreneur since the days of selling candy from his middle school locker. In the feature, Brian discusses founding his own music website in college and why he’s looking forward to working for Detroit startup Quikkly.

Future Entrepreneurs: Brian Rudolph Joins Quikkly

 

Then last week, MIT grad Kathy Cheng explained that after a service trip to Calcutta, India, she realized enterprise in the U.S. is just as important as it is abroad. According to Kathy, her job at Doodle Home in Detroit is the perfect way to combine her creative side and business analytical side.

Future Entrepreneurs: Kathy Cheng Joins Doodle Home

 

So who’s it going to be this week? Don’t forget to keep up with NextGen Journal to find out!

Fellow Spotlight: Billy Schrero, Tulane University

 

Name: Billy Schrero

Hometown: Highland Park, IL

University: Tulane ‘12

Major: English

 

What led you to apply for Venture for America?

My time at Tulane exposed me to a number of interesting topics and perspectives, but it wasn’t until I enrolled in a number of eye-opening service learning courses, and a senior year fellowship working at Tulane’s Center for Engaged Learning and Teaching, that I knew I wanted to pursue a career as a social entrepreneur. VFA seemed like the ideal program to develop the knowledge needed to one day start my own company.

What were you doing when you found out you were accepted?

I was on a bus driving towards Covington, Louisiana for a day of river tubing with my friends. My excitement did not allow for as much relaxation as I had planned, but it was still an amazing day.

What are you most excited about with regard to VFA? What do you hope to accomplish?

Building a network of innovative peers who share my entrepreneurial spirit and having the opportunity to make meaningful contributions to an emerging company. I hope to help my company grow beyond the founders expectations, and to win the prize at the conclusion of the fellowship.

If you had to live one place for the rest of your life, where would you choose?

Chicago. Not only is it one of the most beautiful, innovative and accessible cities I have been to, but also it is filled with my family and oldest friends.

Best thing about Tulane: The opportunities to engage with New Orleans residents and contribute to the growth of the city… and the food, music, and festivals/parades/second-lines in NOLA.

Favorite Book: Sun Tzu’s The Art of War

Favorite childhood TV Show: Boy Meets World

Favorite meal: My mom’s lamb chops.

Role model: Michael Jordan. Could it be anyone else having grown up in Chicago in the 90’s?

Favorite holiday: Mardi Gras!

Best class you’ve ever taken: “Aristotle in New Orleans,” a persuasive writing course that focused on developing a culture of rhetoric and debate in local New Orleans Middle Schools.

Favorite movie quote: “I’ll tell you this: in any fight, it’s the guy who’s willing to die who’s gonna win that inch. And I know, if I’m gonna have any life anymore, it’s because I’m still willing to fight and die for that inch. Because that’s what living is, the six inches in front of your face. Now I can’t make you do it. You’ve got to look at the guy next to you; look into his eyes. Now I think you’re going to see a guy who will go that inch with you.” – Any Given Sunday, Tony D’Amato’s (Al Pacino) final pre-game speech

Favorite thing to do on Sunday: Watch football/play basketball.

Favorite entrepreneur: My dad

Favorite cereal: Honey Nut Cheerios and a sliced banana.

Most worn article of clothing: Lucky red and blue striped socks.

Favorite sports team: Bears, Bulls, Blackhawks, Cubs (Chicago).

Best trip you’ve ever been on: Backpacking trip through Lake Superior Provincial Park – it rained half the time, we ran out of food a day early, and it could not have been more fun.

Favorite historical figure: Gandhi

Accomplishment you’re most proud of: My proudest accomplishment is being a loyal and devoted son, brother, uncle, and friend to those closest to me.

VFA 2012 Training Camp recap: The final week

Last Friday, Venture for America wrapped up it’s final week of the first Venture for America Training Camp at Brown University in Providence. Though the fellows were sad to go, we are excited to see all the great things each of them will surely accomplish when they land in Cincinnati, Detroit, Las Vegas, New Orleans, and Providence in the coming weeks.

The last week of Training Camp included the Final Challenge, where the fellows were tasked with “creating value” for their future company, an organization in their city, or for Venture for America. Nine fellows were given the “Award for Outstanding Value Creation” for their projects: Alison Schmitt, Dan Bloom, Derek Turner, Ethan Carlson, Jude Stanion, Scott Lowe, Sean Pennino, Tim Dingman, and Todd Nelson. You can check out all the fellows’ impressive work here.

 

Once the challenge was over, we couldn’t think of a better way to celebrate Venture for America’s first birthday on July 18th than with a party in Newport, RI alongside our first class of fellows. Special congratulations go to Andrew Yang, Founder, and Eileen Lee, COO, for being with VFA since day one.

And to everyone else who has given their time and support over the last year, thank you. We couldn’t have done it without you!

Training Camp ended on a high note with the closing dinner and awards ceremony at the Hope Club at Brown University. Congratulations to the five fellows who were recognized for outstanding overall performance throughout the VFA 2012 Training Camp: Barry Conrad, Jude Stanion, Mike Mayer, Scott Lowe, and Tim Dingman.

Both the fellows and staff had an unforgettable five weeks in Providence learning and getting to know one another. We wish our first class the best of luck as they move to their cities and begin working with their companies over the next few weeks!

Fellow Spotlight: Jude Stanion, UNC Chapel Hill

 

Name:    Jude Stanion

Hometown: Durham, NC

University: University of North Carolina ‘12

Major: Anthropology

 

What led you to apply for Venture for America?

I get anxious when I’m bored. I’ve never been afraid of small spaces, but I describe my relationship with prolonged boredom as claustrophobia. VFA is a way to continue to learn and grow at an accelerated rate with a very low chance of claustrophobic bordom. VFA will certainly be fun, but fun isn’t the best word for it. There will be some days when the word fear will be more appropriate, but I don’t think I’ll ever be bored.

What were you doing when you found out you were accepted?

Folding clothes, probably socks.

Now that you’re a fellow, what are you most excited about with regard to VFA? What do you hope to accomplish?

I think the community of fellows will be the best aspect of VFA. I had the thought upon leaving Detroit last year, “If I could bring a handful of the right friends here, we could remake this city.” The sentiment is naive in its ambition, but I never thought that I would be handed this exact opportunity. I’m excited to make some strong bonds this summer and then head out together to get some real work done.

If you had to live one place for the rest of your life, where would you choose?

Asheville, NC

Best thing about UNC: Spring days.

Favorite Book: Usually whatever I’m reading at the time, so East of Eden.

Favorite childhood movie: Cinderella

Favorite meal: Brunch- an excuse to have champagne with breakfast.

Role model: Atticus Finch

Favorite holiday: The days leading up to Christmas.

Best class you’ve ever taken: Eats 101: a food snob’s dream.

Favorite movie quote: “Give me leave to do my utmost.” –Babette’s Feast

Favorite thing to do on Sunday: Cook and eat with friends.

Favorite entrepreneur or start-up company: Andrew Yang, Venture for America

Favorite cereal: Crunchy granola.

Most worn article of clothing: Belt

Favorite sports team: Durham Bulls

Best trip you’ve ever been on: Solo travel to Berlin, Budapest, and Kosovo in 2011.

Favorite historical figure: Theodore Roosevelt

Accomplishment you’re most proud of: I was a life sized piñata for Halloween 2009.

Fellow Spotlight: Scott Lowe, University of Oklahoma

 

Name: Scott Lowe

Hometown: Muskogee, OK

University: University of Oklahoma ‘12

Major: Engineering Physics

 

What led you to apply for Venture for America?

It seemed like a great opportunity that met both of my job requirements: high impact as well as intellectually, professionally, and personally rewarding.

What were you doing when you found out you were accepted?

I was reading in my room. I promptly called my mother, posted to Facebook, then went back to reading.

Now that you’re a fellow, what are you most excited about with regard to VFA? What do you hope to accomplish?

Perhaps I’m a bit ambitious here, but I would ideally like to feel completely prepared to build a company from scratch after my VFA experience.

If you had to live one place for the rest of your life, where would you choose?

This is a question I can’t answer lightly; I simply don’t have enough information. With a gun to my head, I would pick a warm beach.

Best thing about University of Oklahoma: Center for the Creation of Economic Wealth, bar none.

Favorite Book: The Selfish Gene by Richard Dawkins. It really changed my perspective on being human.

Favorite childhood TV show: I loved a lot of shows. A representative sample includes Power Rangers, Dragonball Z, Monster Garage, BattleBots, South Park and Family Guy.

Favorite meal: Panang Curry at Thai Delight in Norman, Oklahoma. Note, this changes regularly.

Role model: Christopher Hitchens

Favorite holiday: Christmas. Everyone is decidedly happier, I get to spend time with the family, and presents are awesome.

Best class you’ve ever taken: Politics of US Economic Policy with Dr. David Ray at OU. Take it.

Favorite movie quote: “On a long enough timeline, the survival rate for everyone drops to zero.” -Fight Club

Favorite thing to do on Sunday: Catch up on things that didn’t get done on the other six days.

Favorite entrepreneur: Thomas Jefferson

Favorite cereal: Chocolate Marshmallow Mateys; it’s a chocolate knock-off of Lucky Charms.

Most worn article of clothing: My purple hoodie. In fact, I’m wearing it right now.

Favorite sports team: OKC Thunder! Truthfully, I don’t much care for sports, but I was really excited that Oklahoma now has a professional sports team.

Best trip you’ve ever been on: Christmas Break senior year. Me, my two roommates, and two fellow engineering physics seniors went on a cross country road trip. We hit Chicago, New York, Boston, and Knoxville in seven days. It was filled with more sleeping in cars and dubstep than you can imagine.

Favorite historical figure: Too many good ones to pick a favorite. I’m a big fan of Thomas Jefferson, Richard Feynman, Abraham Lincoln, Adam Smith, Isaac Newton, Albert Einstein, Charles Darwin, Galileo Galilei, Martin Luther King Jr., and Carl Sagan just to name a few.

Accomplishment you’re most proud of: I had to pick between VFA and an offer from a Dallas startup the day our offer was due, but I couldn’t decide. I went back and forth all night, built a pro/con matrix, spoke with my mentors, but I still couldn’t decide. I resolved to flip a coin and have’t looked back since.

VFA Training Camp Update

As week two of the VFA Fellow Training Camp at Brown University comes to a close, the fellows are all settled in at Brown University in Providence, RI. Between redesigning the VFA website, training with Fred Dust and his colleagues from IDEO, and completing a business model challenge, the fellows have been hard at work (and having some fun, too.)

During the first week of camp, our fellows competed in a “Website Challenge” to redesign the VFA website. Check out the video one of our teams created below:

There are more updates to come! If you want to keep up with our fellows during their five-week training, you can follow them on the VFA Fellows Tumblr and on Twitter.

Fellow Spotlight: Roanne Lee, Georgetown University

 

Name:    Roanne Lee

Hometown: North Hollywood, CA

University: Georgetown University ‘12

Major: Finance and International Business

 

What led you to apply for Venture for America?

I first heard about VFA on NPR (KCRW) while stuck in LA traffic. It sounded like exactly what I wanted to do and I remember repeating the name over and over again for the next thirty minutes until I got home and could write it down on paper.

What were you doing when you found out you were accepted?

Mid-tweet, ack!

Now that you’re a fellow, what are you most excited about with regard to VFA? What do you hope to accomplish?

I’m overwhelmed but also excited to see how much I can learn start-ups/tech related through VFA. I love the idea that there is no limit and I’ll be able to tap into expansive resources and interact with enterprising people.

If you had to live one place for the rest of your life, where would you choose?

Among the cities I’ve visited, probably Amsterdam because it has some of the most beautiful architecture with plenty of progressive and interesting people.

Best thing about Georgetown: Our mascot – this might be shallow but it’s indicative of how cute our new mascot, JJ, really is. (look up the videos!)

Favorite Book: East of Eden by John Steinbeck. Also recently, I found Thinking, Fast and Slow by Daniel Kahneman to be perceptive and compelling.

Favorite childhood TV show: Animaniacs

Favorite meal: When my friend treated me for my birthday to the tasting menu at Pure Food and Wine in NYC, I dream about it.

Role model: Frida Kahlo

Favorite holiday: July 4th, just because it’s been so different, but always great, every year.

Best class you’ve ever taken: News, Story, Film – We studied the diverse narratives constructed through newspaper articles, books, and films of three historical events that included the Rodney King trials, the Killing Fields, and the Chicago Leopold and Loeb case.

Favorite movie quote: Butch Cassidy to the Sundance Kid, “Boy, I got vision, and the rest of the world wears bifocals.”

Favorite thing to do on Sunday: Hiking at Temescal Canyon with my dog and laying by the beach afterwards.

Favorite entrepreneur: Jack Dorsey of Twitter and Square

Favorite cereal: Lucky Charms – They’re Magically Delicious!

Most worn article of clothing: Denim button-down shirt.

Favorite sports team: Lakers

Best trip you’ve ever been on: First time in Paris, recording a music video by the Sacre-Coeur.

Favorite historical figure: Michelangelo

Accomplishment you’re most proud of: Climbing Half Dome at Yosemite and finishing the hike down on a sprained ankle.