VFA and Providence

This week, The Greater Providence Chamber of Commerce featured three VFA fellows on the cover of their Events Guide for 2012, and it got us thinking about how proud we are to be part of the Providence community.

So how did VFA become involved in Providence? Read on…


Before Venture for America was even a thought, Andrew Yang spent four years on College Hill in Providence at Brown University.


Andrew met Charlie Kroll, CEO of Andera, at a Brown University Entrepreneurship Panel.

Charlie told the story of how during his senior year at Brown, he submitted a business plan for a website building company to Brown’s Entrepreneurship Program. Though he didn’t win the competition, one professor saw Charlie’s potential and invested seed money. Though his company barely made it through its first few years, it eventually developed a product for online account-opening that took off. 11 years later, Charlie was still in Providence and his company had grown and created over 80 jobs there.

Andrew realized that if more college grads followed in Charlie’s footsteps, rather than joining large firms in other cities, hundreds, or even thousands of jobs would be created in the cities that need them. However, having tried to start his own company soon after graduating from Law School, he knew how difficult and risky it was. The wheels began turning…

July 2011

After gaining the support of dozens, including Charlie Kroll who was one of the first to join the Board of Directors, VFA launched with the plan to provide a pathway for recent grads to join startups and growth companies in emerging U.S. cities. Venture for America would provide the training, mentorship, and network young entrepreneurs need to eventually go on to build successful businesses and create jobs. VFA planned to launch in three cities: Detroit, New Orleans, and of course, Providence.

March 2012

Venture for America gets its first grant from Providence’s very own Rhode Island Foundation.

June 2012

By the Summer of 2012, VFA had done exactly what it said it would. 40 Fellows had been recruited from many of the country’s top schools and placed in startups in the original three cities, including Providence, in addition to two more, Las Vegas and Cincinnati.

The VFA Team and inaugural class of fellows then spent five weeks throughout June and July at Brown University for the 2012 Fellow Training Camp. Trainers and speakers traveled to Providence from around the country to help get the fellows ready to hit the ground running at their startups.

August 2012

Four VFA fellows–Melanie Friedrichs, Sean Lane, Sean Pennino, and Bryant Yik– began their post-grad lives in Providence. The four recent grads rented a house on College Hill, and are currently living in Providence working at various startup companies and enjoying all it has to offer.

Fall 2012 and Beyond

VFA is proud to be part of Providence and appreciates the support the city, Brown University, and those involved in Providence’s startup community have given over the past year. Already this year, VFA has returned to Brown University to recruit for the Class of 2013.

We’re looking forward to sending more fellows to Providence next year, and many years afterward!