Nonprofit widening path toward entrepreneurship

By Rhonda J. Miller
PBN Staff Writer

Venture for America founder and CEO Andrew Yang thinks the United States has a problem. More

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Nonprofit widening path toward entrepreneurship

COMING TOGETHER: Venture for America fellows take part in a Lego competition designed to help participants understand team roles and responsibilities, during a training camp at Brown University.

By Rhonda J. Miller
PBN Staff Writer

Posted 7/15/13

Venture for America founder and CEO Andrew Yang thinks the United States has a problem.

“Not enough of our talent is heading toward entrepreneurship, small business and growth businesses,” said Yang, a 1996 graduate of Brown University who’s not waiting around for other people to fix the problem.

“We’re in hurry. It’s a big country and there are a lot of people who want to learn to build businesses and create jobs,” said Yang, who has been on the Brown campus with this year’s 68 Venture for America fellows for the five-week training session that ends July 18.

This is the second year Brown hosted the fellows, providing support with lodging and meeting space, said Yang. The project launched last year with 40 fellows.

Yang is clear about the mission of Venture for America: “To revitalize American cities and communities through entrepreneurship.”

Two additional overarching goals guide the Venture for America initiative. One is “to enable our best and brightest to create new opportunities for themselves and others.” Another goal of the organization is “to restore the culture of achievement to include value-creation, risk and reward and the common good.”

New York-based Venture for America recruits top college graduates, provides five weeks of training through lectures and meetings with seasoned investors and entrepreneurs and then matches each fellow with a startup for two years.

One of the 2013 fellows is 21-year-old Zoe Chaves, who graduated from Brown in May with a focus on architectural studies and urban planning.

“I was taking a course with a professor who was involved with Venture for America,” she said, and what she heard sparked her interest.

“I had an awareness that universities and businesses, especially small businesses, are some of the things that make a city healthy,” said Chaves. She liked the idea of being matched to a startup.

After training, she’ll earn $38,000 a year, with health care options, working at Splitwise, a Providence-based company that stores data in the “cloud” to help people organize and share information to make it easy to split bills, such as dividing rent with roommates or sharing the cost of lunch.

“Splitwise designed a Web tool like a calculator and the goal is equity,” said Chaves.

Skill-building and learning about entrepreneurship during training set her on the right course to start her job at Splitwise, she said.

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