Young alumni head to new companies in cities in need of an economic boost
Clockwise from top: Wesley Verne ’13, at ZeroFOX in Baltimore; Eleanor Meegoda ’12, at Detroit Venture Partners; Ben Goldstein ’13, at Betaspring in Providence, R.I.
Clockwise from top: Wesley Verne ’13, at ZeroFOX in Baltimore; Eleanor Meegoda ’12, at Detroit Venture Partners; Ben Goldstein ’13, at Betaspring in Providence, R.I.
Courtesy Wesley Verne ’13; Michael Lax Photography (Meegoda);Stephanie Caress (Goldstein)

Venture for America (VFA) doesn’t offer jobs with the highest pay or in the most glamorous cities, but for Eleanor Meegoda ’12, Wesley Verne ’13, and Ben Goldstein ’13, that didn’t matter. Modeled after Teach for America, VFA pairs recent college graduates with startups for two-year fellowships in cities in need of an economic boost. The three began their fellowships last August.

While some recent alumni make close to six figures, the roughly 100 VFA fellows earn between $32,000 and $40,000 per year. The three were lured by the organization’s goal of providing entrepreneurial experience while helping grow startups.

Along with training future business leaders, VFA seeks to funnel talented young people into cities that don’t usually attract recent college graduates to stimulate their economies — the “perfect marriage” between benefiting local communities and providing business experience, says Goldstein, who works in Providence, R.I., at Betaspring, a company that helps budding entrepreneurs start their businesses. Through helping startups grow and training fellows who might form their own companies, the organization aims to create 100,000 jobs by 2025.

Though none of the three is sure of their plans after their VFA fellowships, all are interested in starting their own businesses. “I hope to learn a lot more about the execution problems that happen when you’re a startup,” says Meegoda, whose fellowship brought her to Detroit Venture Partners, a venture-capital firm.

As an undergraduate, Verne and fellow students in Engineering Projects in Community Service, a Princeton course, won a $90,000 Environmental Protection Agency grant to develop “Power in a Box,” their wind- and solar-powered replacement for diesel generators. Through VFA, he hopes to gain experience needed to market the technology. He is working at ZeroFOX, a cybersecurity startup in Baltimore.

“Ultimately, I think [VFA] benefits the entire country,” says Dan Rosenthal ’96, who sits on the board of directors.