Learn how EcoMap partnered with Venture for America (VFA) to help fulfill their mission of creating an accessible and inclusive future of entrepreneurship in America.
With every passing decade fresh new faces emerge with cutting-edge solutions to society’s most pressing problems, while established players who fail to innovate are swept along to the sidelines of history.
Venture For America (VFA), a nonprofit organization that provides a two-year fellowship program for recent college graduates looking to gain startup experience, has worked with enough entrepreneurs to see this “innovate or die” phenomenon play out time and time again.
Thus, in 2021, upon nearing their 10th birthday, VFA decided it was time to re-visit how they were doing things and come up with a plan to ensure they’d be celebrating their birthday for many more years to come.
After much internal reflection and external feedback, VFA realized that, at their core, they were Ecosystem Builders.
We recently sat down with Brandon Mitchell, VP of Company Partnerships at VFA, to learn more about this revelation.
We’re talking about helping companies scale, helping cities grow and develop…about fostering talent and being an onramp to entrepreneurship for communities normally underrepresented in entrepreneurship. Together these different parts comprise an ecosystem.
Brandon, along with the rest of VFA leadership, decided that if they were going to fully embrace this new identity, they needed to bring in the ecosystem experts.
They realized they needed a tool that could serve as a one-stop-shop to bring their community together.
Home to four VFA fellows, including Head of Business Development Kevin Carter, EcoMap understood what was important to VFA and worked side by side with them in order to develop the Connect Platform.
Designed to connect incoming fellows with jobs at VFA’s company partners (a process known internally as “Connect”), the Connect Platform was officially launched in Spring 2022.
Over 290 jobs were posted on the platform by company partners throughout the following months, giving a plethora of options to the 120+ incoming 2022 VFA fellows.
As one of these fellows, I had the pleasure of using the Connect Platform during my job hunt. Thanks to the stellar keyword organization and simple user interface that EcoMap has become known for, it was easy for me to quickly find jobs that interested me. I was able to filter my search by the industry, city, salary, etc. associated with each position, helping me narrow my attention to the roles that were right for me.
In addition to connecting incoming fellows with company partners, the Connect Platform serves as a centralized hub for the entire VFA ecosystem.
Whether that means facilitating connections between alumni looking for help on a new venture, finding mentors for fellows looking for career advice, or showcasing events happening within the network, the Connect Platform “allows us to bring the VFA community together in one spot to advance whatever our fellows and alumni are doing”.
Having a single gathering place for their entire community allows VFA to continue to support their fellows long after their initial two years in the program have passed. It enables deep connections to be forged across all 13 VFA cities; building social capital within the VFA community that fellows can utilize throughout their careers to access new opportunities.
Our data historically has sucked, and now it doesn’t suck
As a fellow, the Connect platform made it easy to track how far along I was in the interview process for each of the companies I was talking to. Each time there was an update from a company—such as an invitation to another round or an offer being made—I was able to track it on the platform to make sure I knew exactly where I stood in the process.
For VFA, this type of program management functionality and benchmark tracking provides “a much deeper and refined understanding of how and when our fellows and company partners are using the platform.”
On the backend, VFA is able to see how often fellows are pitching themselves to companies; and subsequently intervene if they notice any drastic periods of inactivity.
In doing so, VFA is able to lower their attrition rate by reaching out to individuals who are at risk of leaving the fellowship before they actually do so.
On the flip-side, VFA is able to see how often company partners are checking the platform and responding to applicants, helping them ensure that both sides are holding up their end of the bargain.
With a new strategic plan and platform in hand, Venture for America has its sights set on success.
The level of excitement that alumni and company partners have demonstrated (about the platform) has been awesome…we’re in the best place we’ve ever been in in terms of mission clarity…now it’s just time to execute.
Well said, Brandon.
Here at EcoMap, we’re looking forward to continue supporting Venture For America as they grow and expand their impact nation-wide. As a student-founded company, we understand the importance of introducing and promoting entrepreneurship to the leaders of tomorrow, and we’re excited to see how our combined efforts will help to shape the future of our country.
PS: Brandon, we’ll be on the lookout for an invite to the next birthday celebration.
If you or anyone you know needs help managing their fellowship, workforce development, and/or mentorship ecosystem, please don’t hesitate to contact us or schedule a platform demo.
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