NEW YORK—March 29, 2017—Today, Venture For America (VFA), a Fellowship program that empowers recent college graduates to launch their careers as entrepreneurs and revitalize American cities, announced that its current CEO, Andrew Yang, will step down from the chief executive position, effective Sept. 1, 2017. Amy Nelson, who has served as Yang’s second-in-command and managing director at VFA, will become the next CEO.
Yang has grown Venture For America and nurtured its fellows since the organization’s inception in 2011, with a threefold mission of revitalizing American cities and communities through entrepreneurship, enabling our best and brightest to create new opportunities for themselves and others, and restoring the culture of achievement to include value creation, risk and reward, and the common good.
He will remain an engaged board member as he writes another book (his latest, Smart People Should Build Things, was released in 2014) and continues to find ways to make a positive impact.
“Launching and expanding Venture For America has been the proudest achievement of my professional life,” said Yang. “It has been so inspiring watching our young people grow as entrepreneurs, leaders and individuals, bringing ideas and innovation to cities around the U.S. I look forward to continuing to guide the organization from a board position as I explore new ways I can help bring about beneficial change in the country.”
Under Nelson’s leadership, VFA will place more representatives in cities throughout the U.S. to bring the organization closer to its markets. VFA will also expand partnerships to be even more diverse and inclusive. Additional priorities will be identified and addressed throughout the transition phase.
After graduating from Claremont McKenna College, Nelson, a St. Louis native, traveled to Cameroon and Cambodia, where she garnered extensive grant-writing experience and began working with startups. While earning her M.B.A. at NYU Stern, she joined the team at B Lab, where she helped launch B Analytics, the leading data platform for impact investors. In her current position at Venture for America, Nelson is focused on building new partnerships for the organization and scaling the organization’s impact.
“As Andrew moves onto the next phase of his career, the board fully supports Amy Nelson as she takes over the CEO role,” said Scott Krase, senior advisor at Oak Hill Advisors and member of the VFA Board of Directors. “We are confident in Amy’s ability to bring the organization to the next level and continue to grow Venture for America’s community and impact.”
“I am looking forward to my new role at Venture For America,” said Nelson. “To follow in Andrew’s footsteps and benefit from his wise counsel during the transition period is an honor. Leading the organization as it continues to make a difference in the talent landscape of the country is a challenge in the best sense of the word, and one that I am confident we are ready to meet.”
You can follow Amy on twitter at: @amynelsonVFA
Frequently Asked Questions
Why is Andrew Yang leaving Venture or America (VFA)? Where is he going?
Andrew Yang has grown Venture For America and nurtured its fellows since the organization’s inception, working to fulfill the group’s mission of revitalizing American cities and communities through entrepreneurship, enabling the country’s best and brightest to create new opportunities, and helping restore a culture of achievement to include value creation for the common good. After more than six years of service and leadership, Yang will leave the chief executive role to finish writing his next book and research and organize an effective response to the impact of technology on the labor market.
Will Yang still be involved with VFA?
Yes, he will remain an engaged board member and will serve as a resource for the VFA team and Fellows.
What does this mean for the future of the organization?
Yang will work closely with VFA’s incoming CEO, Amy Nelson, to ensure a seamless transition. The organization will welcome its 2017 class of Fellows and Nelson will assume the role of CEO on Sept.1.
What are key priorities for the organization moving forward?
The top priority is to continue to grow the organization and execute on our mission to revitalize American cities and serve as an onramp to entrepreneurship. Under Nelson’s leadership, the organization will place more VFA representatives in cities throughout the U.S., to bring the organization closer to its markets. VFA will also expand partnerships to be even more diverse and inclusive. Additional priorities will be identified and addressed over the coming months.
What is the role of the board during this transition?
The Venture For America board of directors has unanimously endorsed Nelson and is dedicated to Venture for America’s continued growth and success. Venture For America has identified a six-person transition committee comprised of board members to ensure a seamless succession.
Will the board change?
Venture For America’s board will not change.
How will cities be impacted?
Cities will continue to receive an influx of great talent from the Venture For America fellowship program. Relationships between the organization and its target cities will only get stronger, as VFA is prioritizing the expansion of its on-the-ground presence in key markets.
How will Fellows be impacted?
VFA’s Fellows are the heart of the organization, and they will not miss a beat during this transition. The Fellows will continue to have amazing opportunities to connect with community leaders, entrepreneurs and investors, and to experience firsthand the challenges and triumphs that come with building a business.
Why didn’t VFA conduct a CEO search?
Venture For America identified a successor within the organization who has been living and breathing VFA’s mission for the past several years. The board unanimously supported Nelson’s elevation to this role, so the added time, effort and expense of an external search were not necessary.
Who is Amy Nelson?
Amy Nelson joined Venture For America in 2013 and has served in various capacities growing the organization, most recently as Yang’s second-in-command and managing director. After graduating from Claremont McKenna College, Nelson worked in Cameroon and Cambodia, where she garnered extensive grant-writing experience and began working with startups. While earning her M.B.A. at NYU Stern, she honed her passion for using business as a force for good. During business school, she joined the team at B Lab, where she helped launch B Analytics, the leading data platform for impact investors. She was the first in her family to attend college and grew up in the St. Louis area.
What is Nelson’s track record of success with the organization?
During Nelson’s four-year tenure at VFA, she spearheaded the organization’s expansion into 10 new markets, including her hometown of St. Louis. She also ramped up fundraising efforts, increasing the organization’s budget more than threefold—from $1.8M to $6.4M—and has strengthened the internal team, including hiring employees in VFA cities for the first time.
What growth has the organization seen since its inception in 2011?
VFA has hired more than 500 Fellows at more than 300 companies in 18 cities throughout the U.S., creating more than 2,000 jobs. About 20 percent of VFA Fellows have gone on to found companies. In 2017, the organization launched its Executive in Residence program to connect seasoned executives—from companies like Slack, LinkedIn and others—to the cities that need them. VFA fellows were the subject of the 2016 documentary Generation Startup, which captures the struggles and triumphs of six recent college graduates who put everything on the line to build startups in Detroit. VFA fellows and alums continue to do amazing work in regions across the country.
What can we expect as she begins the leadership role?
Nelson has been a key member of the organization since 2013, so the team already knows and fully supports her in this new role. She will hit the ground running to identify areas of growth, fundraising and recruiting opportunities, and ensure the 2017 class of fellows has a successful experience with the program.
When will this take effect?
Andrew Yang will remain CEO until Sept. 1, 2017, to ensure the seamless transition.