Introducing Venture for America – How to Create 100,000 Jobs

When a company has a serious problem, it sends its best people to solve it.

Right now our country has a serious problem – we need to create more jobs. And yet, our top college graduates are often not heading to innovative start-ups and early stage companies that will generate jobs and produce new industries. In 2010 over 50% of Harvard graduates went to work in financial services, management consulting, or to law school, with fewer than 15% going to industry, which includes companies big and small. The same picture holds true at other top college campuses.

Despite the numbers, many graduating seniors would have a strong interest in working for a start-up that had the potential to grow. It’s an ambition that’s commonly expressed among students. But there are significant obstacles for a senior looking to pursue this sort of opportunity:

1. They are not actively recruited. Start-ups often lack the resources to interview and recruit on-campus, particularly because they are generally only looking for a small number of entry-level hires.
2. It’s hard to find a suitable company. It’s difficult, and a departure from past experience, for a college senior to network and do the legwork necessary to find and identify suitable start-ups that might be hiring around the country.
3. You’re on your own. Many seniors learn about opportunities or on-campus interviews from career services or classmates. Dozens of your peers generally aren’t heading to start-ups to give you guidance.
4. It’s potentially risky. Even if you’ve identified a start-up and it wants to hire you, there may be concern about the risk involved, particularly as there may not be a structured path of advancement or training relative to a more conventional position or program.

One compelling illustration of what can happen when you address these issues is Teach for America, which last year drew 46,000 applicants for 4,500 teaching positions, including 12% of Ivy League seniors applying. Teach for America is a role model in its success in attracting a critical mass of talent to an underserved sector.

We must make it easier for our top graduates to choose to join promising start-ups and early-stage companies. Only then will we seed the wellspring of innovation that will enable us to create the thousands of jobs we need and keep our economy competitive.

I have spent the last several months traveling to Detroit, Providence, New Orleans, and other cities and found dozens of promising companies that are all hungry for talent. There’s a supply and a demand – we just need to connect the two sides.

Venture for America is a new national non-profit that will recruit top college graduates to work in start-ups and early-stage companies around the country with a focus on regions undergoing economic change (e.g., Detroit, New Orleans, Providence). Venture Fellows will attend a 5-week Training Institute at Brown University with seasoned entrepreneurs and investors next summer before going to work at their companies. The goal is to funnel a new generation of talent into the start-up ecosystem to both support current companies and, over time, create new ones. Our stated goal is to generate 100,000 U.S. jobs by 2025.

If we provide a concrete runway to our best and brightest to create opportunities for themselves and others, they will embrace the challenge and renew our nation’s economic future.

 
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