Three years into the Venture for America (VFA) program that puts top-flight college grads to work for two years at start-up companies, Detroit is the city where VFA recruits are creating the most buzz.
That’s both surprising — given Detroit’s stigma as a rust-belt economic laggard — and yet entirely in keeping with VFA’s lofty mission: to remake the U.S. economy through entrepreneurship, revitalize America’s cities and create 100,000 jobs by 2025.
Inspired by Teach for America, the VFA program founded by Andrew Yang targets some the nation’s lowest-income cities by sending in aspiring young entrepreneurs, not schoolteachers.
From the beginning, Yang saw that Detroit had a unique place in that mission.
“It’s one of our more popular cities to go to because people think they’ll have a great opportunity to have an impact,” he told me.
The numbers tell the story.
This month, the VFA class of 2014 — 106 recipients of two-year fellowships upon leaving college — are fanning out to work at start-up companies in 12 U.S. cities, after a group orientation and training period in Providence, R.I.
Fifteen of them are landing in Detroit, the destination of more VFA fellows than anyplace else in each of the program’s first two years. Twelve of 40 VFA fellows came to Detroit in 2012, and 16 of 69 the following year.
Not only has Detroit hosted more VFA participants than other cities, but several of the Detroit-based fellows have already made waves by starting new ventures, attracting funding and national attention.