The national nonprofit Venture for America, which places elite recent graduates in two-year fellowships with startups in non-traditional technology markets, is officially making Philadelphia its eighth and largest market, said founder Andrew Yang.
Fellows range in background from technical to business and marketing, among other focuses.
The formal announcement of VFA’s expansion came at Friday’s Philly Tech Week Entrepreneurship/Investment event in celebration of the 30th anniversary of Ben Franklin Technology Partners/SEP. Visual analytics startup Curalate has already made an offer to a VFA candidate, though no final word yet. That would be the first here.
Philly is a late addition to the 2013 group, which includes Baltimore and Cleveland, but VFA still wants to place at least five fellows, if not double that, said spokesman Mike Tarullo. Its at least the third in this model for Philadelphia — having roots in the Teach for America standard-bearer and followed as an inaugural Code for America city.
Capturing talent from top universities around the country interested in startup culture is a chance for Philadelphia to make good on its degrees mismatch, and VFA is growing a strong reputation.
That said, when you look at the other markets VFA serves, you wonder what it might say about Philadelphia to be put in the group. Las Vegas, New Orleans and Baltimore are closest in size and prominence — but all are at best half in population — and the others, Detroit, Cincinnati, Cleveland and Providence, RI, are hard hit manufacturing towns first.
It seems, despite its comparative successes, what Philadelphia shares most with the others are its crime, education and employment struggles, situations that are perhaps least immediately served by small high tech startups.
As for reputation, acute talent acquisition and spinoff success — which Philadelphia has movement on — any support might be good support.
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