Venture for America fellows make impact on startups



If you ever doubt the Columbus region’s power to attract entrepreneurship, I have five young people you ought to meet. Nate Rattner, Andrew Jones, Ada Sierraalta, Dillon Myers and Louisa Lee are all fellows with Venture for America.

Instead of taking high-paying corporate jobs on the East or West coasts, these out-of-state college grads choose to move to Columbus on two-year assignments with several regional startups.

And while the VFA fellows are making an impact on innovation here, they are learning, by example and experience, how to become entrepreneurs themselves.

Making an impact

VFA is out to help create 100,000 new U.S. jobs by 2025.

Started in 2011, the nonprofit program places top college graduates in startups to help build businesses and create jobs. Last year, Columbus was named one of four new VFA cities.

VFA fellows want to have an impact. Nearly 45 percent of fellowship participants have worked at a startup before. VFA kicks off with an intensive training camp at Brown University with team challenges and teaching from entrepreneurs, industry experts and investors. When fellows move to a city, they are ready to dig in.

Experiencing Columbus

Four of the five fellows hadn’t been to Columbus before their interviews.

After diving headfirst into projects, working alongside talented entrepreneurs, asking endless questions and helping startups achieve milestones, Columbus’ VFA fellows are in the entrepreneurial groove. Here’s what they have to say about their experience so far:

  • Rattner: I’m continuing to explore what types of things I get really excited about and where I’m able to make the biggest difference in Columbus both at my job and outside of the office. The people here are extremely proud of their city and the potential it has; they view Columbus as a place that’s on an upward trajectory and about to hit a takeoff point. I am definitely one of those people.
  • Jones: Thanks to TechColumbus, I have plenty of opportunities to increase my exposure and connectedness with the entrepreneurial community here. I am continuing to love this city and couldn’t be happier.
  • Sierraalta: I’m really excited about making my mark on the city by helping it grow. I feel more committed to it the longer I’m here, taking advantage of opportunities that someone else helped provide for me.
  • Myers: Having the opportunity to work side by side with two experienced entrepreneurs, I’m developing a much greater understanding of the mindset and strategic thinking that it takes to create and grow a successful business. With all that I’ve been able to work on and all I’ve been able to learn, it’s crazy to think that I’ve only been working in this position for a couple of months.
  • Lee: With startups, it feels like you’re working in dog years. Two months is a long time — enough time for a company to change gears and shift priorities. It’s a lot to keep up with, but I absolutely love the challenge of an ever-changing environment.

VFA is an excellent way to put Ohio’s culture of entrepreneurship on the national radar. It’s a unique opportunity for startups to recruit and hire remarkable talent who might opt to remain in our community after their VFA tour is complete.