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Why Philly is Venture for America’s biggest city

The group is hosting a job fair this Friday meant to connect VFA Fellows with local startups.

Pennovation Center. (Photo courtesy of Aerial Applications)

A robust tech and entrepreneurship community in an affordable, well located mid-Atlantic city has made the Venture for America (VFA) program — a two-year fellowship program for recent college graduates — thrive in Philadelphia: out of the 15 U.S. cities where it has dropped a pin, Philly has grown to become its biggest operation since launching here in 2013.

Per the New York-based organization, the program has welcomed 100 fellows in Philly over the past five years, placing them at startups and small businesses across the city. Each year, the program welcomes around 40 new fellows from across the country. Some 50 local startups have hired Venture for America fellows, and there are 30+ alumni still living in Philadelphia following their time as fellows.*

It’s why the organization decided to host its 2018 Northeast Job Fair at Philly’s Pennovation Center. Happening Friday, April 13, the event will help 90 fellows from the Class of 2018 connect with 70 startups based in Philadelphia and other cities.

“I’m delighted to be hosting VFA’s Northeast Job Fair in Philadelphia,” said Keenan Corrigan, VFA’s Philly director. “Philly’s entrepreneurial ecosystem is robust and this fair is a fantastic way to showcase our city, our companies, and our supporters to the next class of VFA Fellows.”

Prior to starting their new jobs, fellows spend five weeks getting training and professional development from entrepreneurs and industry leaders.

“There, they learn from experts, entrepreneurs and industry leaders so they are ready to add value to their startups from day one,” the organization said in a statement. “Then, fellows spend two years working at their startups, serving as core team members while learning first-hand how to contribute to a growing company and ultimately helping entrepreneurs in cities like Philadelphia expand and scale.”

Ask Corrigan why the program has expanded here faster and she’ll roll out similar arguments to those found in Philly’s bid for Amazon’s second headquarters: great location and pricing with a rich culture.

“It has to do with how affordable Philly is and the quality of life here,” said Corrigan, a Duke grad who has helmed the Philly VFA chapter since May 2017. “It’s low-cost, it’s close to New York and D.C., but there’s access to great culture, food, restaurants and things to do.”

Support organizations for entrepreneurs, both for-profit and nonprofit, also give fellows a path forward after the two-year period lapses.

“There’s a really strong entrepreneurial system here,” said Corrigan. “They know that they’ll have access to support organizations, resources, incubators and accelerators if they choose to start their companies here.”

*We were curious for an updated list of Philly-based startups founded by VFA alums. So here it is:

Companies: Pennovation Center / Venture for America / University of Pennsylvania

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