Filling the Talent Pipeline

Venture America aims to connect college grads with start-ups

HELPING MIAMI’S START-UP COMMUNITY

One of the biggest challenges start-ups face in their early stages is finding the right talent. Not every candidate is cut out for the fast-paced, ever-changing start-up environment, and most start-ups don’t have the budget to hire an eligible candidate with years of experience. That’s where Venture for America (VFA) comes in. The national nonprofit aims to bridge the talent gap in Miami’s start-up community by connecting entrepreneurial-minded college graduates to start-ups seeking affordable and skilled talent.

Paul Griebel, regional account director for VFA in Miami, says that VFA operates with three goals in mind: providing opportunities for college graduates, offering affordable talent for growing companies, and fostering growth in the Miami start-up ecosystem. “We view ourselves as an on-ramp to entrepreneurship for our fellows, and on the other side of that, we offer a talent pipeline solution to grow companies,” says Griebel. 

Paul Griebel, Miami Regional Account Director for Venture for America (VFA)

Founded in 2011, the nonprofit currently has programs in 13 cities across the United States. In 2015, Venture for America expanded to Miami with the support of the Knight Foundation, and since then it has had 94 “fellows” complete their fellowships with organizations in Florida.

VFA finds its fellows through an intensive screening and application process. Approximately 140 candidates become fellows each year out of a pool of more than 1,000 applicants. The organization then partners with local and multinational corporations like Las Olas VC, ThriveDX, GoTu, and MyBundle.TV to place its fellows in a range of entry and junior-level jobs.

During their two-year fellowship, fellows gain valuable job experience in a start-up environment while attending workshops, trainings, and networking events with their cohort. The companies that hire them enjoy vetted personnel with a desire to work in a start-up environment. Griebel says that cultivating a talented, highly screened pool of potential employees is tantamount to growing Miami’s start-up community.

After finishing the fellowship, fellows may choose to continue with the corporation they worked for during their fellowship or embark on their own start-up journey. They also have access to VFA’s network and can look for opportunities on VFA’s site (think of this as a very exclusive LinkedIn). 

Because VFA’s fellowship program provides its corporate partners with capable, motivated employees ready for a realistic start-up environment, VFA fellows are in high demand. Ayal Stern, CEO of ThriveDX US, says that when the Israeli-based company first began moving to Miami in 2018 it was looking for affordable staff that could handle the start-up environment.

“VFA does an amazing job of curating and filtering. We get great people that are willing to work hard, that are super smart, and it’s cost-effective. Check, check, check,” he says. Stern mentions that a former 2019 VFA fellow that ThriveDX hired is now the company’s current vice president of operations.

Griebel says VFA’s ideal candidate is someone who has a “passion for entrepreneurship and innovation” and has earned a four-year degree within the last three years. However, candidates need not have a business background to apply. In fact, having a diverse group of candidates with different skill sets gives Miami’s start-up community access to creative talent that can solve some of the complex challenges that start-ups face.

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