A Veteran Continuing His Service After the Military

Fellow Erik Holst from his days in the Navy

It became apparent to me very quickly that VFA was going to be a much different experience than going to work for your average corporate or even just going to work at a startup that you found on your own. There’s this camaraderie within VFA and you develop these bonds that are much stronger than you would find at a company. That’s what appealed to me as a veteran.

Erik Holst, ’16

Erik made the decision to join the Navy after graduating from high school in 2006. He didn’t have a clear idea of what he wanted to do with his life and he believed that military training would foster the discipline and attention to detail that would serve him later on in his career.


Life Underwater

Life Underwater

Erik was primarily assigned to the USS SEAWOLF (SSN-21) and deployed on four different missions during his five years in the Navy. He spent months underwater in a submarine in the Western Pacific, off the coast of Hawaii, in South America, and deep in the middle of the ocean aboard a ballistic missile, or “boomer”, submarine. On board, Erik was responsible for communications. Every 24 hours, the submarine would come up right below the surface of the water, make sure they could not be spotted, and erect an antenna that would allow them to download news and mission-critical emails. In addition to his communications duties, he, along with all of the crew, was trained to respond to a fire or flood and any casualties that could result from an emergency.

Joining a New Unit

Joining a New Unit

Near the end of his five years in the Navy, Erik decided that he wanted to go to college. He had read about Columbia University’s efforts to recruit more veterans, and decided to apply—of course he was accepted! Erik’s experience living on a completely self-sufficient submarine led him to declare a major in sustainable development.

Erik first heard about Venture for America during an info session for military veterans attended by Fellows and a VFA Team member. He was so enthralled that he applied to VFA’s first early deadline and became one of the first Fellows admitted as a junior.

Erik likens some of his Training Camp experience to military boot camp. Just as bootcamp is the first introduction to military culture, Training Camp is, for many, the first introduction to what VFA is all about and what startup culture will be like. It is within both of these experiences that the most important bonds of friendship and camaraderie are born.

Just like you could run into a veteran on the street and have a shared experience, 5-10 years down the line, if you run into a VFA Fellow who you have never met before you will have a shared experience about Training Camp and the Fellowship and the community at large.

More Opportunities for Veterans

Venture for America is a great place for veterans who recently completed their undergraduate degrees to jump-start a startup career and join a tight-knit group of like-minded individuals. With Erik’s help, we hope to make this opportunity open to as many veterans as possible!

We are so grateful for his service.

If you are a veteran looking to explore opportunities with Venture for America, reach out to our talent team for more information!

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