Fellow Benefits

Learn why VFA is so much more than a full-time startup job.

Expert training, so you can to be the best startup employee—and founder—you can be

Learn from experts, and make lifelong friends.

Succeeding at a startup takes a lot more than you can learn in the classroom. That’s why every Fellow is required to attend our five-week-long Training Camp before starting at their new companies.

You need both hard and soft skills to excel at a startup, so Training Camp focuses on both. You’ll be exposed to design thinking, programming, the basics of marketing and sales, and more—and you’ll also brush up on your ability to collaborate, compromise, send good emails (harder than you might think), and tackle complicated projects in a short amount of time. In past years we’ve held trainings by IDEO, Train the Street, the Flatiron School, and plenty of other industry experts.

We want you to feel like no matter what you face at your job (or in your life), you’ll have the adaptability, resilience, creativity, and network of friends to figure things out.

Learn more about Training Camp

It doesn't stop after five weeks.

Our Programs team offers instructional webinars throughout the year, and a website full of resources just for Fellows. Plus, the team is always available to talk though professional quandaries great and small.

Our Fellow-only Slack team gives Fellows the opportunity to learn from each other every day—from their best social media practices to cheap and effective sales platforms, Fellows and alumni have a vast array of experience and opinions to share.

Support from experienced professionals across industries.

With over 400 experienced professionals, our mentor network is growing stronger every day. Our board of directors is stacked with business luminaries, and they’re always willing to sit down with a Fellow, or help them make the connections their business needs.

Training Camp

Learn from experts, and make lifelong friends.

Succeeding at a startup takes a lot more than you can learn in the classroom. That’s why every Fellow is required to attend our five-week-long Training Camp before starting at their new companies.

You need both hard and soft skills to excel at a startup, so Training Camp focuses on both. You’ll be exposed to design thinking, programming, the basics of marketing and sales, and more—and you’ll also brush up on your ability to collaborate, compromise, send good emails (harder than you might think), and tackle complicated projects in a short amount of time. In past years we’ve held trainings by IDEO, Train the Street, the Flatiron School, and plenty of other industry experts.

We want you to feel like no matter what you face at your job (or in your life), you’ll have the adaptability, resilience, creativity, and network of friends to figure things out.

Learn more about Training Camp

Ongoing support

It doesn't stop after five weeks.

Our Programs team offers instructional webinars throughout the year, and a website full of resources just for Fellows. Plus, the team is always available to talk though professional quandaries great and small.

Our Fellow-only Slack team gives Fellows the opportunity to learn from each other every day—from their best social media practices to cheap and effective sales platforms, Fellows and alumni have a vast array of experience and opinions to share.

A growing mentor network

Support from experienced professionals across industries.

With over 400 experienced professionals, our mentor network is growing stronger every day. Our board of directors is stacked with business luminaries, and they’re always willing to sit down with a Fellow, or help them make the connections their business needs.

Access to jobs at vetted companies

Vetted companies

Fellows work at companies vetted by the VFA team. Our dedicated Company Partnerships team develops relationships with companies in VFA cities, usually through on-site visits and referrals from local partners. We prioritize leadership, relative financial stability, and a high-potential working and learning environment.

We have more than 400 vetted companies in our network in industries like energy, education, real estate, digital security, fashion, and more.  Many of our alumni stay at VFA companies for years after their two year fellowships end.

VFA Match & regional job fairs

After they join VFA, Fellows gain access to Match, a job board full of vetted job listings just for Fellows. If Fellows are looking for new opportunities during their two years, Match is the place to go.

In addition to Match, Fellows have the opportunity to meet companies—and other Fellows—at a series of regional job fairs in VFA cities. Travel expenses to job fairs are covered by VFA.

 

My friends in more traditional jobs spend their days making deliverables for a boss who gives that to another boss, and no one really feels connected to the value they're adding. For me, I see the value that I'm adding every day.

– Max Haskin '15

A competitive salary, good benefits, and reasonable cost of living

Fellows can expect a starting annual salary of at least $38,000, with some companies offering equity. From there, many Fellows earn raises once they add real value to their team, provided the company is growing. All startups that hire Fellows offer health insurance or provide Fellows with a stipend to purchase their own insurance.

$38k is a competitive, living wage in the cities where Fellows work. This cost-of-living calculator will help you get a sense of how far every dollar will go in VFA cities, versus cities with significantly higher costs of living like San Francisco, New York, and Seattle. In general, Fellows find that $38k allows them to live comfortably.

Resources to start a company—during the fellowship or years after

Brainstorm the next big thing.

Side-Project-a-Thon

If you think you might want to launch something, Side-Project-a-Thon (we call it SPaT) is the place to get started.

Think of SPaT like an accelerator for ideas: 36 hours of collaborating with your fellow Fellows on the problems you want to explore and solve, hopefully laying the groundwork for a real side project. SPaT happens every summer during the VFA Reunion, when Fellows and alumni gather at Training Camp for a long weekend of building and learning together.

Find out if your idea stands up to the test.

Innovation Fund

An annual crowdfunding competition with up to $40,000 in prizes, the Innovation Fund has kicked off some of our favorite Fellow-led companies, projects, and community initiatives.

During the Innovation Fund, participants work closely with our Launch team to refine their idea, set a fundraising goal, devise a plan, and then spend four intense weeks raising money for their projects.

The crowdfunding competition gives Fellows an early read on the market for their new business and an infusion of investment funds. We’re not talking small change: in 2016, 11 Fellow-led teams raised over $80,000. The Innovation Fund helped launch companies like Pinch, Arthur, and Ash & Anvil.

VFA Accelerator

We know it isn’t easy to turn a side project into a full-time job. Among other things, building a company takes time, space, and support from people who have been there. Enter: the VFA Accelerator.

For four months, participants spend their time in Detroit living and breathing their company. With help from the team and a wide range of industry leaders, Fellow founders can focus solely on building their fledgling companies. From connecting Fellow founders to advisors, to providing them with space to work, to helping them figure out the legal stuff, the Accelerator is all about guiding new founders down the path to success.

Get your business off the ground.

Seed Fund

Wondering about access to capital? We’ve got that covered, too.

The VFA Seed Fund provides an early boost to Fellow-led companies with real potential. Each year, graduating Fellows have the chance to submit companies they’re working on, and the most outstanding receive seed investments from the UBS Venture Catalyst Awards, a pool of over $150k.

Social Enterprise Award

Fellows interested in tackling societal challenges and improving their local communities have access to up to $20,000 annually. We bring in expert trainers and experienced social entrepreneurs to explore ideas, and a panel of judges selects top projects to receive funding.

Help from people who get it.

Whether you’re a Fellow or alum, the VFA community will support you as you build your company. From mentors who have been there, to team members who will proofread your marketing campaigns and weigh in on hiring decisions, we make the process of launching a business a lot less lonely.

Ideation

Brainstorm the next big thing.

Side-Project-a-Thon

If you think you might want to launch something, Side-Project-a-Thon (we call it SPaT) is the place to get started.

Think of SPaT like an accelerator for ideas: 36 hours of collaborating with your fellow Fellows on the problems you want to explore and solve, hopefully laying the groundwork for a real side project. SPaT happens every summer during the VFA Reunion, when Fellows and alumni gather at Training Camp for a long weekend of building and learning together.

Validation

Find out if your idea stands up to the test.

Innovation Fund

An annual crowdfunding competition with up to $40,000 in prizes, the Innovation Fund has kicked off some of our favorite Fellow-led companies, projects, and community initiatives.

During the Innovation Fund, participants work closely with our Launch team to refine their idea, set a fundraising goal, devise a plan, and then spend four intense weeks raising money for their projects.

The crowdfunding competition gives Fellows an early read on the market for their new business and an infusion of investment funds. We’re not talking small change: in 2016, 11 Fellow-led teams raised over $80,000. The Innovation Fund helped launch companies like Pinch, Arthur, and Ash & Anvil.

VFA Accelerator

We know it isn’t easy to turn a side project into a full-time job. Among other things, building a company takes time, space, and support from people who have been there. Enter: the VFA Accelerator.

For four months, participants spend their time in Detroit living and breathing their company. With help from the team and a wide range of industry leaders, Fellow founders can focus solely on building their fledgling companies. From connecting Fellow founders to advisors, to providing them with space to work, to helping them figure out the legal stuff, the Accelerator is all about guiding new founders down the path to success.

Funding

Get your business off the ground.

Seed Fund

Wondering about access to capital? We’ve got that covered, too.

The VFA Seed Fund provides an early boost to Fellow-led companies with real potential. Each year, graduating Fellows have the chance to submit companies they’re working on, and the most outstanding receive seed investments from the UBS Venture Catalyst Awards, a pool of over $150k.

Social Enterprise Award

Fellows interested in tackling societal challenges and improving their local communities have access to up to $20,000 annually. We bring in expert trainers and experienced social entrepreneurs to explore ideas, and a panel of judges selects top projects to receive funding.

Support

Help from people who get it.

Whether you’re a Fellow or alum, the VFA community will support you as you build your company. From mentors who have been there, to team members who will proofread your marketing campaigns and weigh in on hiring decisions, we make the process of launching a business a lot less lonely.

A lifelong network of friends, mentors, and business partners

VFA is about more than startup skills and a full-time job—it’s about a community of people who are driven by common values and want to build things together.

Fellows & Alumni

When we ask our Fellows what they love the most about VFA, there’s one answer that always comes out near the top: the other Fellows. From the moment they meet, Fellows often feel like they’ve found their people—other capable, motivated, self-directed recent grads who genuinely care about the impact they make. (They also tend to be a lot of fun.) From an annual “phormal” dance in Philly to 5ks and volunteering, Fellows and alumni constantly find ways to keep the VFA bond strong.

Fellows form lifelong friendships—and they also build companies together. Slope was founded by Brian Bosche and Dan Bloom, 2012 Fellows who met as roommates at the first Training Camp. Castle was founded by three 2012 Fellows who bought and rebuilt a house together after moving to Detroit, realizing in the process they made a pretty good team. Jinesh Shah ’15 and Leigh Sevin ’14 met at mixer in Miami and a few months later founded Arthur. It’s a powerful network that’s only growing stronger.

A meeting of the VFAsians group at Training Camp.

Fellow resource groups

With support from the VFA team, Fellows and alumni have formed a variety of resource groups to further support one another as they work in demanding—and sometimes imperfect—real world environments.  We call this partnership VFA Rise. Current groups include Black Fellows for America, VFAsians, VFA WMN, Latinx, Venture Out (an LGBTQ group), and a yet-to-be-named group for Fellows of Middle-Eastern and North African Descent. VFA Rise groups get support and resources to attend relevant conferences and events, bring in speakers, and plan events that bring their communities together.

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