“Smart people should be building things,” says Andrew Yang. He believes far too many graduates of top colleges currently follow the crowd into finance and law and consulting, and that more of them should become entrepreneurs, manufacturers, and businesspeople who create tangible products and jobs for others. In 2011 Yang recruited a long roster of donors to launch a 501(c)(3) inspired by Teach For America. Venture for America, like TFA, now attracts some of the nation’s best and brightest young graduates, accepting only about 15 percent of applicants, training them, then plunging them into practical work and problem-solving. VFA members are sent not to cities that are already entrepreneurial hotspots but rather to locales that are struggling or have the advantage of being low-cost for new businessmakers—like Detroit, Cleveland, Baltimore, Las Vegas, New Orleans, St. Louis, and San Antonio. In addition to introducing the young to business as a creative act, and invigorating struggling communities, VFA aims to “restore the culture of achievement” in the U.S. by supporting those who take economic risks in hopes of achieving common good and future rewards.
Individual donors like Zappos CEO Tony Hsieh ($1 million pledge), Quicken Loans founder Dan Gilbert ($1.5 million), Graham Weston of Rackspace in San Antonio, and LinkedIn co-founder Reid Hoffman are supporters, as are numerous philanthropies like the PricewaterhouseCoopers Foundation, the Abell Foundation, and the Blackstone Charitable Foundation. In its first four years VFA placed 318 fellows at 150 small companies in 15 cities. Another 111 high-ranked college graduates entered the program as its class of 2015. Yang’s goal is for the companies that VFA fellows are reinforcing to create 100,000 new jobs by 2025.
- About Venture For America, ventureforamerica.org/about