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!

Applications now open for Class of 2013

It’s official! We are now accepting applications for Venture for America’s next class of fellows. Yesterday, our founder Andrew Yang wrote a message to prospective applicants:

Andrew’s Message to all VFA Applicants

Application deadlines for the 2013 fellowship are:

  • October 1, 2012
  • December 3, 2012
  • February 18, 2013

If you are thinking about applying and want more information, you can visit our Admissions Info and FAQs page.

Want to become part of the VFA Class of 2013?

Apply today!

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!

VFA is expanding in 2013

As Training Camp at Brown progresses, Venture for America is already beginning to look toward expanding in 2013. In Ezra Klein’s recent Washington Post Article about Venture for America, Andrew Yang mentioned some potential expansion cities for 2013, including Baltimore, Cleveland, New Haven, Pittsburgh and Raleigh-Durham.

Local organizations in both Pittsburgh and Baltimore are already showing interest in bringing Venture for America to their regions. A recent article in the Pittsburgh Business Times explains more in depth why Pittsburgh is an appealing option for VFA’s expansion next year. Pop City, another Pittsburgh news source, also recently published an article entitled “Venture for America is coming to Pittsburgh with its army of entrepreneurs”. In it, Andrew Yang cites Pittsburgh’s “robust entrepreneurial community” as a primary draw.

Last week, the Baltimore Business Journal also published an article describing Venture for America’s attraction to the area. Mike Tarullo, VFA’s Director of Corporate Development, said the city’s burgeoning tech community, the research being spun out of the Johns Hopkins University and University of Maryland, and the city’s growing number of tech-company incubators are all particularly alluring.

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.

Venture for America June Newsletter

Dear VFA Friends and Supporters:

First, thanks to all who joined us for the Venture for America Summer Celebration last Tuesday! I hope that you enjoyed yourself and came away inspired by the potential of Derek Turner and our best and brightest to rebuild our country through entrepreneurship. The event was a huge success on every level, as over 400 people attended and over $365,000 was committed or raised for Venture for America, way above even our wildest hopes. Thank you to everyone who made it possible! Special thanks to IAC and Tony Hsieh of Zappos for their support.

We have posted 200+ photos from the event with more to come, so feel free to look for yourself and your friends as you relive the evening. The IAC HQ makes for an incredible backdrop. Here are some pics to get you going: 


I am writing this from Providence, Rhode Island, where the VFA team relocated to last week along with 40 of the most talented and motivated young people in the nation. The Training Camp is off to a rousing start already as the Fellows are hard at work.


Our Fellows are recording their Training Camp experiences through the VFA Fellows Tumblr over the next five weeks. Follow along with their experiences and see their progress here

Today, Gary Chou from Union Square Ventures is here coaching the Fellows on their first challenge project. Being here is inspiring in a very different way than the Summer Celebration, but in some respects it’s more profound. We know that the hard work is going to be done by these Fellows in their cities and careers in the years to come, and we are doing our best to equip them with the professional skills, values, and relationships that will make them genuine instruments of value creation.

It’s exciting to see how talented, motivated, and earnest the Fellows are. Each morning they recite the VFA Credo:

My career is a choice that indicates my values.
There is no courage without risk.
Value creation is how I measure achievement.
I will create opportunities for myself and others.
I will act with integrity in all things.

Spending this time with them, we’re certain that they are going to do a lot of good in Detroit, New Orleans, Providence, Cincinnati, and Las Vegas in the months ahead. Thank you for making it possible.

We have extended the Summer Celebration campaign, so if you make a contribution by the 4th of July, it will be matched by our incredibly generous Board of Directors. We remain a non-profit start-up ourselves and your support makes a big difference.

Click here to make a donation now!

Ezra Klein wrote an excellent article about Venture for America this past weekend in the Washington Post. Click here to see Ezra’s thoughts on our work.

Please keep up with Venture for America and our Fellows through Facebook, Twitter or Tumblr. And feel free to drop me a line personally at

Thank you again if you joined us last week, and hope that your summer’s off to a tremendous start!

All of the best,


Andrew Meets President Obama

Last month, Andrew Yang was one of twelve past White House Champions of Change who were invited to meet President Obama in Washington, D.C., and the White House recently sent us pictures from the big day! Read more about Andrew’s visit and the other Champions of Change in The White House Blog.

President Obama addressing the Champions of Change.

Andrew explains to President Obama how Venture for America works.

Andrew and the other Champions of Change. Congratulations to you all!

Andrew’s Visit to the White House

Yesterday, VFA Founder Andrew Yang visited the White House to meet President Barack Obama as one of twelve “Champions of Change” alumni who were invited to celebrate the one year anniversary of the program and share the work they are doing around the country. Photos to come!

On the way home, Andrew reflected on his experience meeting President Obama and wrote the following message:

“I’m on a train home and wanted to share my visit to the White House.

I was invited to meet the President as a past Champion of Change who had made progress since the award last year. So to everyone who’s supported Venture for America this past year, “Thank You for making this visit possible!”

It was a pretty amazing experience. I was seated next to President Obama (!!!) for 45 minutes. I told him about Venture for America – our goals and mission, what we do, the cities we’re launching in this year, and our plans for expansion. He asked a number of questions (“How did people find out about the program on campus” and “Do the participants get any support or program throughout the 2 years”) At the end, he suggested that I connect with Startup America; I told him that I have a call with Steve Case next week. I’m confident that the President now knows about Venture for America and likes it.

Afterwards, I was interviewed for a video for the White House public engagement team.

Overall, it went phenomenally well. It’s quite a trip having the President sit within inches of you. A senior White House official invited us to bring our first class of Fellows to the White House at some point – we’ll have to see about that.

Because you’ve seen the President so many times, he seems very familiar. And the impression he gives is exactly like the one you get on TV. He was very warm and friendly toward the group, and made a number of jokes to loosen everyone up. You got the sense that he was working to make those around him more at ease.

I shook his hand twice: when he first arrived and at the close of the event. He’s got a big, firm handshake. I remember thinking that his large hands must help his basketball game.

It was one of the most memorable days of my life. I know that any recognition Venture for America receives is due to the hard work and support of Eileen Lee, Mike Tarullo, Bernie Sucher, Charlie Kroll, Darren MacDonald, Cameron Breitner, Sy Jacobs, and so many other people who have gone above and beyond to make our organization a reality. And most of all it’s a testament to our first class of Fellows, without whom Venture for America would remain just an idea. Thank you all for making today happen. Here’s to even brighter days to come (though this one will be tough to beat)!”



I was on a panel at SXSW earlier this week with Mark Davis (Kohort), Marc Nager (Startup Weekend), Nick Seguin (Kauffman Foundation), Jeff Slobotski (Silicon Prairie News), and Paige Craig (BetterWorks) moderated by Shane Reiser (also of Kohort).  The topic was How to Build Entrepreneurship Communities.  Brad Feld of Techstars was meant to join us, but stayed in Boulder to attend to his wife. 

It was an interesting panel, as each of us had a different perspective.  We each directly touched different aspects of what makes an entrepreneurship community vibrant and successful: leadership, successful and aspiring entrepreneurs, media and resources.  Over the past year or so I’ve become exposed to the start-up scenes in Detroit, New Orleans, Providence, Cincinnati, and Las Vegas, so I had some sense of how these cities’ entrepreneur networks developed. 

A few themes arose from our discussion: 

  • Leaders often emerge by accident.  In many instances, a member of the community saw a problem (i.e., entrepreneurship is too inaccessible, no one’s talking about what’s being done in a particular region) and set out to solve it.   By so doing, they found themselves in a leadership role and a central figure in their community, though that wasn’t the original goal. 
  • The right community leaders prioritize others.  In part because they hadn’t set out to be the focus of the community, the best leaders think about how to build something independent of their own position.  Mark Davis talked about the greatest victory being that someone would come to a Columbia Venture event and not know who he was.  Lining up a successor in an organization was regarded as a crucial part of building an enduring network. 
  • Communities require lasting commitment. Mark, Marc, and Nick all commented on how communities take time and resources to coalesce.  It’s not an overnight process, but instead a multi-year endeavor that requires persistence to see results.  One signal of long-term commitment is a dedicated innovation hub, accelerator and/or co-working space, which appears in most any thriving start-up scene (RI-CIE and Betaspring in Providence, Cincytech and the Brandery in Cincinnati, Launchpad Ignition and Ideavillage in New Orleans, DVP and Bizdom in Detroit, etc.). 

Overall, the panel was well-received.  I was approached afterwards by individuals looking to build up start-up communities in Las Vegas (a VFA city), Chicago, Houston, Honolulu, Ithaca, Asheville, and other environments.  The interest level is at an all-time high. 

One point of contention that came up was that our panel was male-dominated, which could be said about the start-up scene in general.  Shane took the heat for that, but it’s really not his fault that the numbers are the way they are.  Hopefully Venture for America will be able to ease the entry of some enterprising women into start-ups and growth companies nationwide. 

Welcome to the First 28 Venture Fellows!

We recently sent out a newsletter welcoming our first 28 Venture Fellows to those who had signed up to receive periodic updates. To receive the newsletter every month or two, just enter your e-mail address at the bottom of the page under “Get the Latest VFA Updates.” Thanks to everyone for supporting VFA!   

Venture for America

Hello VFA friend and supporter,

We are proud to announce 22 newly successful candidates for the Venture for America Fellowship Class of 2012!For a sense of the incoming class:


As you’ll see, it’s an impressive group!  We have 3 high school valedictorians, two college 4.0s, mechanical and electrical engineers, coders, a state tennis champion, business plan competition winners, young people who have already run and started businesses, and Fellows from national universities from across the country.  I hope you’re as excited as we are to put them in position to contribute in the months ahead.

The deadline for applications is February 20th, so it’s still not too late if you or someone you know would like to apply to become a Venture for America Fellow for 2012.

New Additions to the VFA Team

With our Venture Fellows in the fold, we need someone to focus on their training and development.  On that front, we’d like to welcome our new VP of Programs, Eddie Shiomi.  We are very fortunate to have him, as he’s spent the past 7 years as the director/trainer for the CORO Fellows Program in Public Affairs and is a veteran at human capital development.  He’s got the right orientation to help build our Fellows into motivated leaders.

We’d also like to welcome our new Admin and Development Associate, Megan Hurlburt.  Megan is going to make sure that we fly straight, follow up with people properly, and raise some money!  Megan is a Boston native, won an award for having the highest GPA of her graduating class at the College of Charleston, and triumphed over the 200+ people we had apply for this position.

VFA in the News

Venture for America was recently featured in both the Wall Street Journal and Forbes as an innovative way to spur job growth.  In addition, Senator Sheldon Whitehouse of Rhode Island has agreed to attend our Training Camp this summer.  There is a tremendous amount of excitement around VFA’s mission to get more of our best and brightest innovating and creating opportunities for themselves and others around the country.

What’s going on at VFA?

For those of you near New York, Venture for America will be hosting its 2012 Annual Launch Event the 2nd week of June.  We will have details for you as the summer approaches.

Right now, we’re fundraising to support operations and expansion. We are looking to raise approximately $500,000 from private individuals and Foundations. If you believe that Venture for America’s mission is one that you would like to support, please take a moment to make a contribution on our website.  Any amount helps, big or small.

VFA is making phenomenal progress in record time, and it wouldn’t be possible without you. Thank you all for your confidence and support.

Fellow Spotlight

I’ve attached below an excerpt from the application essay of one of our Fellows, Scott Lowe. Scott has a 4.0 in Engineering Physics with a Computer Science emphasis from the University of Oklahoma.

From Scott’s application:

Just months ago, I was on track towards becoming a quant, in fact my senior capstone research is centered around financial mathematics: studying information cascades in FOREX markets using Fokker-Plank equations, researching several econophysics models including the statistical treatment of money, wealth, and income, and learning traditional financial mathematics including option pricing theory via the Black Sholes equation. While I enjoy the work because of my love of mathematics, I luckily realized that this career path was simply designed to exploit inefficiencies in markets in order to extract profits from others. This financial realm known as trading is a zero sum game where for every dollar you make, someone else loses a dollar, and I know I’m not destined to become such an obvious parasite on society. Granted, not all finance organizations are so void of value; I see private equity and venture capital firms as providing the necessary service of allocating capital to companies that need and deserve it. Their funding allows entrepreneurs to transform ideas into reality, and for that reason I was very excited to learn that Detroit Venture Partners had been enlisted as a VFA startup.

In searching for other ways to apply myself towards improving the world and making a difference while also satisfying my intellectual curiosity, I luckily stumbled across Venture for America. Regardless of what startup I potentially end up at, I know that I will have the opportunity to absorb vast amounts of knowledge on how to create and lead organizations from successful entrepreneurs while also adding value to distressed communities through job creation. This is something I am very passionate about, and I believe that this passion, when combined with my broad background and excitement to relocate after graduation makes me the perfect VFA applicant.

Scott Lowe is an extraordinarily talented young man who would be successful in most any field. We believe that, if placed in an appropriate environment and given some training and support, Scott is the sort of young person who will someday start or lead a company that will create dozens, perhaps hundreds of jobs. We are looking forward to seeing if we are right, and we hope that you are excited to join us.

All of the best,