Recruitment and Selection
Venture for America will address two key challenges in Miami: attracting and retaining talent and creating quality jobs. The specific activities we undertake are recruitment and selection, company matching, training camp, Fellowship curriculum, and launch activities.
Venture for America draws talent from a high-caliber national pool via career fairs, information sessions, and Campus Ambassadors. We target 100 national universities and colleges via job postings for Fellows, on campus events such as career fairs and information sessions, and dedicated Campus Marketing Interns. Following our rigorous review of written applications and Skype interviews, the VFA selection process culminates in a selection day where applicants engage in group challenges and a panel interview with a group of high-level executives and entrepreneurs.
In 2016 we received 1,300+ applications for a total class of 170 Fellows. Our acceptance rate was 18% and we achieved greater diversity than in any previous year, with 46% women and 39% Fellows from underrepresented populations comprising our current class. Of these 170 Fellows, 8 were placed in Miami startups, bringing our total number of current Miami Fellows up to 21. We plan to recruit 1,500 applicants to the Class of 2017 by April 2017, maintaining our acceptance rate of <18% and resulting in 185+ Fellows. Of these Fellows, we hope to place 16+ in Miami next summer.
VFA partners with 300+ high-growth startup companies across our 17 cities. Our Company Partnerships Team works with partner organizations and company liaisons (VFA Fellows who volunteer to source companies) throughout the year to identify promising startups and growth companies in need of high quality, entry-level talent. The company matchmaking process is a mutual selection opportunity where Fellows have access to all opportunities through our ever-improving job placement portal. We have also added regional job fairs to give companies the opportunity to interview Fellows in person before the final round. To that end, we plan to produce a Miami Job Fair in April 2017.
In Miami, we already partner with companies such as Kairos, IronHack, Cirle, and Nearpod. Several Miami Fellows have also founded their own companies companies: Yodel, East Bidwell LLC, and Doze Beds. In 2017, our Company Partnerships team plans to identify an additional 10+ companies with whom we could partner, thus attracting more Fellows to Miami and strengthening our presence.
Venture for America provides a five-week Training Camp at Brown University for Fellows to provide basic business readiness and the skills they will need to contribute to their companies from day one. Training Camp includes multi-day workshops and various group and individual challenges presented by professionals from IDEO, McKinsey, the Flatiron School, Fellow-founded company Compass, and many other partners. Challenges typically include completing a crowdfunding campaign and designing a minimum viable product for a commercial application. Dozens of entrepreneurs and subject matter experts lead trainings and sit on panels to create this intensive, groundbreaking program.
VFA provides a two-year curriculum beyond Training Camp to help our Fellows with further development. Fellows are connected with external mentors, receive ongoing coaching from their managers, and are presented various opportunities to meet local business leaders and entrepreneurs. VFA maintains contact with the Fellows through frequent visits to cities and a return to Training Camp each summer for workshops. VFA also uses quarterly surveys from supervisors to collect strengths and weaknesses, and provides feedback to help the Fellows leverage their strengths and improve where there are gaps.
Fellows are also encouraged to be engaged members of the local community. In Miami, Fellows have participated in social ventures and innovative service projects, including volunteering with Agape, which helps women recovering from drugs use; tutoring local students; mentoring at Ironhack; and working with Code Fever and Black Tech Week. In 2017 and beyond, we will continue connecting Fellows to mentorship, feedback, and coaching. 55% of our Miami Fellows remain after the end of the program, often advancing to leadership roles within their company or moving on to other companies, and we aim to maintain this percentage in 2017 and beyond.
The newly established Miami Advisory Board will support Fellows as mentors and advisors. Members include Eddy Arriola, Dan Vigdor and Shane Battier. Members will assist with fundraising, vetting company partners, and Fellow support.
Nearly 20% of our Fellow alumni go on to found their own companies within 3 years of the Fellowship. In order to foster this entrepreneurship, VFA provides opportunities during and after the Fellowship that are designed to help grow and fund Fellows' business ideas. These include:
•The VFA Innovation Fund, a crowdfunding competition which gives access to $50,000 per year in prizes for projects and businesses with a social mission.
•The VFA Accelerator, a full time residential program in Philadelphia that helps Fellows develop their companies.
•The VFA Seed Fund, which gives select graduating Fellows access to up to $160,000 in investment for those who decide to launch a business.
•The VFA Angel Network, which includes commitments from experienced angel investors.
•The Social Enterprise Award, an annual award of up to $20,000 presented to select Fellow companies in the social sector.
•Side-Project-A-Thon, a two-day period during Training Camp in which returning Fellows are given dedicated time to work on side business projects.
Fellows who found companies create 20 jobs within 3 years of launching. Miami is already surpassing our national average of Fellows who start companies, with 30% of Miami Fellows and alumni having started their own ventures. By continuing to expand and improve our Launch programming, we aim to maintain the high rate of Miami Fellows who start companies, thereby supporting the economic growth and revitalization of the greater Miami community.