Tech entrepreneur and presidential hopeful Andrew Yang founded Venture for America to encourage young people to follow his lead to build their own companies in cities across the United States, including Baltimore, where the program has been successful despite the city’s “challenging reputation.”
“Baltimore is near the top among VFA cities for attracting fellows and keeping them here,” said Robert C. Embry Jr., president of the nonprofit Abell Foundation, who approached Yang about expanding his program to Baltimore and offered financial support.
“As far as I know, Baltimore — somewhat surprising to people because of its challenging reputation of recent years — has recruited highly and retained highly,” Embry said in a Baltimore Sun article.
Josh Russakis, the nonprofit’s director in Baltimore, has said before that as many as two-thirds of its fellows stayed in the area after their fellowships are completed.
Baltimore became a Venture for America destination in 2013.
Russakis said Baltimore, Philadelphia, and Detroit are the program’s “big alumni gathering cities.”
“Baltimore fellows have gone on to start nine companies here, according to VFA, including HiveLend, which connects beekeepers with farmers who need their crops pollinated, and Zest Tea, which sells high-caffeine-content teas,” the Baltimore Sun reported.
During the second Democrat debate last week, Yang was asked about how he would heal the racial divide in America.
“I spent seven years running a nonprofit that helped create thousands of jobs, including hundreds right here in Detroit, as well as Baltimore, Cleveland, New Orleans,” Yang said. “And I saw that the racial disparities are much, much worse than I had ever imagined.”
“Venture for America has been compared to Teach For America, which places young people in teaching positions in struggling schools,” the Baltimore Sun reported, adding that those participating in the program are selected and matched to startup companies for a two-year term.
“Yang acknowledged that VFA is not on track to meet his goal of creating 100,000 jobs by 2025,” the Baltimore Sun reported. “VFA officials told Vox that 3,500 jobs have been created.”
Yang stepped down as head of Venture for America in 2017.
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