San Antonio entrepreneur owes success to presidential candidate, nonprofit

Venture for America helped Sean Wen open Pinch Boil House and Bia Bar in SA

By Tiffany Huertas - Video Journalist, Joe Herrera - Photojournalist

SAN ANTONIO - A San Antonio restaurant is thriving downtown and its co-founder has a fellowship program to thank.

KSAT's Tiffany Huertas learned about Sean Wen's journey to the Alamo City and how the fellowship helped him.

After graduating from the University of Texas at Austin in 2012, Wen went to work at an investment bank but he said he eventually realized that he wanted something different.

"I really wanted to be a part of something that was smaller, where I can be, you know, make an influence or make an impact at a company," Wen said.

In 2014, Wen applied for a fellowship from Venture For America and was accepted.

The two-year fellowship, available across the country, aims to help entrepreneurs with resources and skills to create jobs.

Venture for America was founded by Democratic presidential candidate Andrew Yang.

According to Venture for America, Yang noticed college graduates were taking jobs in places such as San Francisco and New York instead of finding opportunities in cities such as San Antonio.

"Essentially, it takes graduates up to two years out of college. (The nonprofit) places them in cities all over the U.S. cities like Detroit, Baltimore, San Antonio, New Orleans, Cleveland," Wen said.

"You work for startups, venture capital companies – really, just being a part of that community and ultimately trying to create more jobs in that area (and) just being, like, a career accelerator for that individual," he said.

The nonprofit said 20% of its alums start their own companies.

In 2012, Venture For America had 40 fellows. In 2017, more than 180 people were in the fellowship program.

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The fellowship brought Wen to Geekdom, a coworking space. He said he became a membership manager and made many connections.

"The cool thing about this community is that everyone in the tech industry or the startup industry or just being an entrepreneur is, like, super connected and super supportive," Wen said.

Geekdom said that, through its partnership with Venture For America, there have been 28 fellows in San Antonio, and five of them have worked with Geekdom.

Wen said he wanted to be part of the San Antonio food community and, after almost two years of doing pop-ups, he opened the Pinch Boil House and Bia Bar.

Wen said the fellowship inspired him.

"To be surrounded by peers, people my age, starting their own companies, doing incredible things that gave me a lot of confidence," Wen said.

Wen said his experience is about more than just food. It is about giving back.

"And at the end of the day, you know, any time we really try to give back to, whether it's through the food bank (or after) Hurricane Harvey, we had something for that. So, I think it's really important to be a part of the community and that's important to have the community buy in for what you're doing, too," Wen said.

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