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Venture for America plants fellows to halt brain drain

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Venture for America, a non-profit group that places new college grads in startup companies, is coming to Cleveland. The New York-based organization focuses on placing new college grads in jobs at startups in cities with a low cost of living and in the process of revitalization.

“The goal is to create young entrepreneurs,” explains VFA vice president of corporate development Mike Tarullo. “Too many of our best and brightest are going into big firms and too few are going into growth businesses and startups.” Ultimately, the hope is that the fellows will become successful entrepreneurs themselves in the cities where they are assigned.
The VFA team scours college campuses for recruits. The grads then spend two years in startup or growing companies, getting hands-on experience in developing a company. The employers pay the fellows $36,000 a year.
VFA launched 18 months ago with 40 fellows in five cities: Cincinnati, Detroit, New Orleans, Providence and Las Vegas. This year the organization expanded to Cleveland and Baltimore. The concept is modeled after the Teach for America program, which places new teachers in underserved schools.
“We identify cities that are kind of reinventing themselves through entrepreneurship industries,” says Tarullo. “A lot of it is about preventing brain drain.” The VFA wants to create 100,000 new jobs by 2025 by helping young companies expand and train new college graduates to become business builders and job creators.
The organization has identified 25 possible Cleveland companies, and Tarullo has already talked to more than 10 companies that are interested in hiring a fellow. “They are all different sizes in all industries,” he says. “The common thread is great leadership and exciting growth opportunities. The fellows can cut their teeth and spend a couple of years learning and growing.”
VFA plans to send eight to 10 fellows to Cleveland each year. Tarullo has relied on area support organizations to identify companies. “JumpStart and Bizdom have played a huge role,” he says. “They have welcomed us to the community and introduced us to the right people.”

Source: Mike Tarullo
Writer: Karin Connelly
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