Embracing the Unknown: How Fellowships Are the Low-Risk, High-Reward Way To Launch
Primary’s Founder Operations Manager, Emma Balin, shares the magic that happens by finding the right fellowship program and growing with a cohort.
Participating in a fellowship program changed the trajectory of my career and gave me an exceptional network of peers and life-long friends. There’s nothing quite like being in a cohort of like-minded people, going through similar experiences and united by shared values. I believe so wholeheartedly in the power of fellowships that I now dedicate a large portion of my time to running Primary’s NYC Founders Fellowship, a free, part-time, no-equity program that helps aspiring entrepreneurs launch new startups.
Seeing the power of fellowships firsthand
Like most college seniors, I came to dread the question “so, what are you doing after graduation?” As I started to go through the recruitment process for business roles in more traditional industries, I found myself uninspired. I was eager to find a job that would challenge me intellectually and afford me the opportunity to work with incredible people. Startup life intrigued me, but I was apprehensive to take a role at a high-risk company with little structure or support.
Enter Venture for America (VFA), a two-year entrepreneurial fellowship program creating economic opportunity in American cities by mobilizing the next generation of entrepreneurs and equipping them with the skills and resources they need to create jobs. VFA places recent college graduates at startups in emerging entrepreneurial ecosystems to help foster future startup founders and leaders.
As I went through the long and thorough interview process, I knew I had found the right fit. When my interviewer called me to tell me I had been accepted into the program, there was no doubt in my mind that this was the path I wanted to take. It was clear that by becoming a fellow, I was joining a community of ambitious, passionate, and truly kind people interested in solving big problems. Venture for America was helping to demystify the world of startups in a low-risk, high-reward way.
Fast forward a few years and—via a VFA introduction—I’m now a proud alumna of Venture for America and helping to run a fellowship program myself, Primary’s NYC Founders Fellowship.
All great fellowships start with a why
Brian Schechter and Tobias Citron launched the NYC Founders Fellowship at Primary about a year ago with the intention of creating a community to support early stage startup founders as they navigate the trials and tribulations of launching a company.
As a seed-stage venture capital firm, Primary has a unique vantage point into the common challenges that arise at the earliest stages of company creation. It’s not uncommon for founders to feel lonely or isolated with no clear path ahead of them. Our goal with the fellowship has always been to support founders during the earliest days of launching a startup through educational programming, small group cohorts, curated events, and expert office hours.
Our fellowship community includes founders working across many industries with diverse backgrounds and skill sets. People in most cases join our program while still working a full-time job, and we pride ourselves on helping fellows “take the leap” and go full-time on their startup. There is a collective feeling of growth and development that occurs in each cohort. Fellows pivot on their ideas, meet cofounders, get accepted into prestigious accelerators, and often raise capital. While the outcomes of our fellowship range, the feeling of community is universal.
Building something great?
Are you an early-stage startup founder in NYC? Maybe you’ve been toying with the idea of launching something for a while but haven’t taken the first step? Please reach out! We’re launching the fifth cohort of our NYC Founder’s Fellowship and would love to hear from you.
Our NYC Founders Fellowship brings together the best and brightest New Yorkers who are tackling big problems and looking for a community of peers doing the same.
What started as a personal passion for bringing people together has turned into a career filled with fostering connections and supporting startup founders along their entrepreneurial journey. Venture for America played no small role in my path thus far and I hope the NYC Founders Fellowship plays no small role in yours.
Interested in applying for the Founders Fellowship? Applications close May 11th.