Andrew Yang ’99

Hidden Talent

Spring 2012

When Andrew Yang ’99 looks at the state of the U.S. economy, he sees a critical distribution problem. No reliable pipeline exists to funnel talented college graduates toward promising startup companies, says Yang, the founder of a fellowship program called Venture for America. And that, he continues, is because the firms have limited resources to recruit. Yang confronted this dilemma firsthand as CEO of the test-prep company Manhattan GMAT, which he guided for several years before it was acquired by Kaplan in 2009. “If you can connect those two groups, there would be profound benefits both on a personal level and a macroeconomic level,” says Yang, a startup veteran who relishes the process of building a business.

After leaving the test-prep world, the New York native concluded that the best way he could help match talented young graduates and startups was by creating a nonprofit organization. He proceeded to launch Venture for America last year with a focus on Detroit, New Orleans, and Providence, R.I. The program expanded to Las Vegas and Cincinnati this year, and the White House recently honored Yang as a “Champion of Change” for promoting job growth in areas hit hard by the recession.

More than 1,100 applicants vied for the organization’s 40 initial fellowships, which include guaranteed salaries and health benefits from the startups.

Several other cities are now in talks with Venture for America about hosting the program in their regions, says Yang, a basketball enthusiast who co-founded the Asian-Americans and the Law seminar while at the Law School.

Attracting dynamic young entrepreneurs could lead to long-term payoffs in terms of job creation, Yang explains. “That’s why these cities are so excited about what we’re doing,” he says. “For them, having an inflow of talent at this level would be profound.”