Corporate Titans recruiting top college graduates woo them with fancy meals and big salaries. That's typically not an option for promising start-ups. Andrew Yang wants to give entrepreneurs a leg up in the war for young talent with Venture for America (VFA), a nonprofit he launched in July. Jobs in finance, law and consulting are "fine if you just want to make money," says Yang, a start-up veteran and former president of test-prep company Manhattan GMAT. "But imagine if that talent went to growth companies instead. They could do something amazing. They could help create jobs."
His nonprofit--inspired by Teach for America, which places top college grads in low-income schools--is slotting 45 to 50 graduating students this spring into two-year stints at start-ups in struggling cities like New Orleans and Las Vegas. Yang thinks the project, which has raised $500,000 from entrepreneurs, corporate sponsors and nonprofits, can spur innovation and job growth in sectors like biotech and renewable energy. His goal is to create 100,000 jobs by 2025.
For students, the pay--$32,000 to $38,000 a year--isn't the draw. Yang says the appeal is learning entrepreneurial skills that help participants hatch ideas for their own ventures. VFA becomes a kind of start-up boot camp.
The upside for the firms doing the hiring is that they get top talent on the cheap. "The human capital is priceless," says Kristine Sturgeon, CEO of Define My Style, a Cincinnati-based retail start-up that is recruiting through VFA.
Of course, the businesses involved could fold, forcing hires to move on. But that's a risk Derek Turner, a VFA fellow and Columbia University senior, says he's willing to take, since working in the corporate world "would totally suck out my morale."
Will Being Small Get Easier?
The Jumpstart Our Business Startups Act (JOBS), passed by the Senate in March, targets fast-growing start-ups. It eases restrictions on crowdfunding, costs and disclosures for small businesses going public. Some exemptions apply to companies that are pretty big: up to $1 billion in revenue.