Photo by Side A Photography for Remington Chop
Ahead of the fifth local class starting their jobs, Venture for America says the fellowship program is going strong in Baltimore.
VFA communications director Leandra Elberger said the 2017 Baltimore class is 21 strong. It’s down three from the 2016 class, but Baltimore is still VFA’s biggest city class this year. Birmingham, Ala., has 18 fellows and there are 17 fellows heading to Detroit, Mich, to round out the top three. In all, 182 fellows will spread out across the country from San Antonio to Charlotte.
Fellows work for two years at a startup or early stage company. The idea is to build a path to entrepreneurship for the fellows. They also have a collective effect on the city.
DC Inno reports that Baltimore has a 68 percent rate for Venture for America alumni staying in Baltimore after their two year fellowship is up.
Mark Chu, a business and product analyst at SmartLogic and part of the VFA 2015 class, said the fellows that arrived before him attracted him to the city.
“Amongst all VFA cities, Baltimore has not only the highest retention rate, but also the happiest fellows,” he said. “At training camp, I realized that half of that was because the older fellows already in Baltimore were truly an exceptional group of individuals. Once I arrived I realized that the other half was due to Baltimore being a city with a lot to love.”
Venture for America declined to provide retention rates for their other cities.
Baltimore welcomed its first VFA class in 2013 with seven fellows. The fellows quickly started working on making a mark at not only their new jobs but also on their new city. Remington Chop, a food workshop and biergarten, was created by four fellows in 2015.
The event returned in 2016 and was carried on by a new class of fellows, including Chu. The former New Yorker said getting involved in Baltimore means something different than it did in Manhattan.
“Here, the act of participation is much more an active process rather than a passive one,” he said. “My purchasing a ticket to an event, or voicing an opinion, or leaving a positive Yelp review all feels like it makes more of an impact here – and you can’t put a price on that.”