Mobilizing graduates for entrepreneurship

August 20, 2012

Inspired by the “electric response” to Teach for America, former attorney Andrew Yang created Venture for America to help start-ups – the primary source of job creation in our economy – recruit the skilled graduates they will need to grow their enterprises.

Small high-growth companies lack the resources and brand equity to compete for the best talent against the big banks and management consulting firms.  Even though positions with the latter do tend to pay better, Teach for America has shown that it’s not strictly about compensation.  Many graduates want more career options but are unsure how to find and value the experiences they’d garner in an entrepreneurial work environment.

Mr. Yang does a nice job of extolling the benefits to the economy at large of his brainchild:

We’ve got the best universities in the world,” Yang says. “We have the talent. But our best and brightest are being absorbed by what I call ‘the meta economy.’ They’re heading into professional services and transactions and optimizing but not into direct value creation. If you can imagine a country where the equivalent wave of talent currently heading to professional services was heading to fast-growing companies, think about what that would do for job creation.”

Perhaps it’s a sign of the times that enticing Ivy League graduates to work at a for-profit business can now be sold as a way to “give back” to the community — on the grounds that the job isn’t in finance or management consulting and isn’t in New York or Boston. Yet that’s Yang’s pitch. “Let’s say you were to place 20 teachers in Detroit,” he says. “That would be a great thing. But if you could place 20 entrepreneurs in Detroit and have each start a business, that would also be incredible for Detroit. These regions need our top people helping to build businesses and create opportunities.”

The article linked to above (from The Washington Post) closes with this quote from a recent Ivy League graduate about the different sense of value creation found in different endeavors :

As for Mike Mayer, he’s finished with Wharton and heading to New Orleans to work at a small software company. “There is a sense of creating something, of creating real tangible value,” he says. “A big bank does create value for our economy, but as a first-year analyst among 80 or 90 peers, you’re not seeing it. At a start-up, you’re seeing it every day.”

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