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Venture for America: Entrepreneurial Fellowships for College Grads, with CEO Andrew Yang
Venture for America is a non-profit fellowship program that grooms the next generation of American entrepreneurs by placing them in startup apprenticeships.
Andrew Yang is the Founder and CEO of Venture for America (VFA), a non-profit fellowship program that grooms the next generation of American entrepreneurs by placing college graduates in apprentice positions at startups in emerging cities such as Detroit, New Orleans, and Providence. Yang is also the author of the book Smart People Should Build Things, which was published earlier this year by HarperBusiness. He recently visited Big Think to explain the book's core ideas, discuss VFA's mission, and explain how his organization operates.
In the interview above, Yang describes how college graduates more often than not follow one of just six career paths: financial services, management consulting, law school, medical school, graduate school/academia, and Teach for America. On top of that, graduates tend to cluster in only six major metropolitan areas: New York City, San Francisco/Silicon Valley, Washington D.C., Boston, Chicago, and L.A.
Yang explains why this is a problem:
"So in essence we have a system that’s driving our most talented graduates to one of six activities in one of six places. And over the long term this is not a great thing for the economy, especially if you consider that so many of these graduates are heading to professional services contexts that exist to serve essentially large companies that after they get big enough to a point where they can hire an investment banker, consulting firm or a law firm. So the metaphor I use is that it’s like we’re investing in tons of layers of icing and forgetting to bake the cake."
Venture for America strives to reverse this trend. The journey of a VFA recruit begins with a 5-week training camp at Brown University. There, the recent grads are mentored by investors, venture capitalists, entrepreneurs, and representatives from innovation firms. Upon the camp's completion, each recruit is placed in a startup based in a city such as Detroit, Cincinnati, or Baltimore. The goal is for the experience to benefit fledgling companies as well as the young fellows:
"They’ll be working with a more experienced entrepreneur during that time. At the end of the two years they can either stay at that company as a manager and leader or they can even start their own companies. And we have a set of angel investors and a seed fund to invest in them. So you can think of it as a two year extended entrepreneur apprenticeship program that has the immediate effect of helping companies expand and hire more people and hopefully create more jobs."
Job creation is a major piece of Yang's vision for Venture for America. His hope is that VFA can help create 100,000 new U.S. jobs by 2025. These new positions would be the result of the partner companies' growth as well as the experience VFA alums gain on starting new businesses.
Another topic discussed by Yang is getting women more involved with Venture for America. This past year, 36% of the VFA class was comprised of women. Yang sees that as a good start but wants to see that figure rise in the near future:
"We need to get it up to 51 percent to mirror the population and the college graduate ratio. You know, I think people respond very powerfully to role models. Like they see examples, they want to see someone who’s like them. And so there are some fellows that are women that come to us and say hey, I’d prefer a female led company. And so when we go out to the startup landscape in these cities and you look around, I mean the proportion of companies that right now – not even in tech but just, you know, in startups and growth companies in these cities – unfortunately it’s below 51 percent, at least of the companies that we see and interact with."
Yang cites Facebook COO Sheryl Sandberg as an example of a powerful woman who has inspired young female entrepreneurs to follow her lead. He says more advocates like her are needed.
For more from Andrew Yang, check out his Big Think interview here.
An open letter predicts that a massive wall of rock is about to plunge into Barry Arm Fjord in Alaska.
- A remote area visited by tourists and cruises, and home to fishing villages, is about to be visited by a devastating tsunami.
- A wall of rock exposed by a receding glacier is about crash into the waters below.
- Glaciers hold such areas together — and when they're gone, bad stuff can be left behind.
The Barry Glacier gives its name to Alaska's Barry Arm Fjord, and a new open letter forecasts trouble ahead.
Thanks to global warming, the glacier has been retreating, so far removing two-thirds of its support for a steep mile-long slope, or scarp, containing perhaps 500 million cubic meters of material. (Think the Hoover Dam times several hundred.) The slope has been moving slowly since 1957, but scientists say it's become an avalanche waiting to happen, maybe within the next year, and likely within 20. When it does come crashing down into the fjord, it could set in motion a frightening tsunami overwhelming the fjord's normally peaceful waters .
The Barry Arm Fjord
Camping on the fjord's Black Sand Beach
Image source: Matt Zimmerman
The Barry Arm Fjord is a stretch of water between the Harriman Fjord and the Port Wills Fjord, located at the northwest corner of the well-known Prince William Sound. It's a beautiful area, home to a few hundred people supporting the local fishing industry, and it's also a popular destination for tourists — its Black Sand Beach is one of Alaska's most scenic — and cruise ships.
Not Alaska’s first watery rodeo, but likely the biggest
Image source: whrc.org
There have been at least two similar events in the state's recent history, though not on such a massive scale. On July 9, 1958, an earthquake nearby caused 40 million cubic yards of rock to suddenly slide 2,000 feet down into Lituya Bay, producing a tsunami whose peak waves reportedly reached 1,720 feet in height. By the time the wall of water reached the mouth of the bay, it was still 75 feet high. At Taan Fjord in 2015, a landslide caused a tsunami that crested at 600 feet. Both of these events thankfully occurred in sparsely populated areas, so few fatalities occurred.
The Barry Arm event will be larger than either of these by far.
"This is an enormous slope — the mass that could fail weighs over a billion tonnes," said geologist Dave Petley, speaking to Earther. "The internal structure of that rock mass, which will determine whether it collapses, is very complex. At the moment we don't know enough about it to be able to forecast its future behavior."
Outside of Alaska, on the west coast of Greenland, a landslide-produced tsunami towered 300 feet high, obliterating a fishing village in its path.
What the letter predicts for Barry Arm Fjord
Moving slowly at first...
Image source: whrc.org
"The effects would be especially severe near where the landslide enters the water at the head of Barry Arm. Additionally, areas of shallow water, or low-lying land near the shore, would be in danger even further from the source. A minor failure may not produce significant impacts beyond the inner parts of the fiord, while a complete failure could be destructive throughout Barry Arm, Harriman Fiord, and parts of Port Wells. Our initial results show complex impacts further from the landslide than Barry Arm, with over 30 foot waves in some distant bays, including Whittier."
The discovery of the impeding landslide began with an observation by the sister of geologist Hig Higman of Ground Truth, an organization in Seldovia, Alaska. Artist Valisa Higman was vacationing in the area and sent her brother some photos of worrying fractures she noticed in the slope, taken while she was on a boat cruising the fjord.
Higman confirmed his sister's hunch via available satellite imagery and, digging deeper, found that between 2009 and 2015 the slope had moved 600 feet downhill, leaving a prominent scar.
Ohio State's Chunli Dai unearthed a connection between the movement and the receding of the Barry Glacier. Comparison of the Barry Arm slope with other similar areas, combined with computer modeling of the possible resulting tsunamis, led to the publication of the group's letter.
While the full group of signatories from 14 organizations and institutions has only been working on the situation for a month, the implications were immediately clear. The signers include experts from Ohio State University, the University of Southern California, and the Anchorage and Fairbanks campuses of the University of Alaska.
Once informed of the open letter's contents, the Alaska's Department of Natural Resources immediately released a warning that "an increasingly likely landslide could generate a wave with devastating effects on fishermen and recreationalists."
How do you prepare for something like this?
Image source: whrc.org
The obvious question is what can be done to prepare for the landslide and tsunami? For one thing, there's more to understand about the upcoming event, and the researchers lay out their plan in the letter:
"To inform and refine hazard mitigation efforts, we would like to pursue several lines of investigation: Detect changes in the slope that might forewarn of a landslide, better understand what could trigger a landslide, and refine tsunami model projections. By mapping the landslide and nearby terrain, both above and below sea level, we can more accurately determine the basic physical dimensions of the landslide. This can be paired with GPS and seismic measurements made over time to see how the slope responds to changes in the glacier and to events like rainstorms and earthquakes. Field and satellite data can support near-real time hazard monitoring, while computer models of landslide and tsunami scenarios can help identify specific places that are most at risk."
In the letter, the authors reached out to those living in and visiting the area, asking, "What specific questions are most important to you?" and "What could be done to reduce the danger to people who want to visit or work in Barry Arm?" They also invited locals to let them know about any changes, including even small rock-falls and landslides.
What makes some people more likely to shiver than others?
Some people just aren't bothered by the cold, no matter how low the temperature dips. And the reason for this may be in a person's genes.
Eating veggies is good for you. Now we can stop debating how much we should eat.
- A massive new study confirms that five servings of fruit and veggies a day can lower the risk of death.
- The maximum benefit is found at two servings of fruit and three of veggies—anything more offers no extra benefit according to the researchers.
- Not all fruits and veggies are equal. Leafy greens are better for you than starchy corn and potatoes.