Andrew Yang (born January 13, 1975) is a U.S. 2020 Democratic presidential candidate, entrepreneur, attorney, philanthropist, and founder of Venture for America (VFA). He worked in startups and early-stage growth companies as a founder or executive from 2000 to 2009. After he founded VFA, the Obama administration selected him in 2012 as a "Champion of Change" and in 2015 as a "Presidential Ambassador for Global Entrepreneurship".
Yang in 2015
|Born||January 13, 1975|
Schenectady, New York, U.S.
|Residence||Manhattan, New York City|
|Education||Brown University (B.A.)|
Columbia University (J.D.)
|Awards||White House Champion of Change (2012)|
Presidential Ambassador of Global Entrepreneurship (2015)
In November 2017 Yang launched his campaign for the Democratic nomination in the 2020 U.S. presidential election. His signature policy is what he calls the "Freedom Dividend", a form of Universal Basic Income (UBI) for every American adult over 18. Yang believes UBI is a necessary response to the rapid development of automation, which is increasingly leading to workforce challenges. The other two central elements of his platform are Medicare for All and "human-centered capitalism." Over 100 policy proposals are listed on his campaign website.
Early life and educationEdit
Yang was born in Schenectady, New York, to immigrant parents from Taiwan. His parents met while they were both in graduate school at the University of California, Berkeley. His father graduated with a Ph.D. in physics and worked in the research labs of IBM and General Electric, generating over 69 patents in his career. His mother graduated with a master's degree in statistics and later became an artist.
While attending public school, Yang described being bullied and called racial slurs by classmates. "Perhaps as a result, I've always taken pride in relating to the underdog or little guy or gal," he wrote. Yang later attended Phillips Exeter Academy, an elite boarding school in New Hampshire. He graduated from Exeter in 1992 and went on to attend Brown University, earning a Bachelor of Arts (BA) in economics. After Brown University, Yang attended Columbia Law School where he earned a Juris Doctor (JD).
In 1999, after graduating from Columbia Law School, Yang began his career as a corporate attorney at Davis Polk & Wardwell in New York City. He left the firm in 2000 to join his officemate in launching Stargiving.com, a website for celebrity-affiliated philanthropic fund-raising. Stargiving.com raised some capital from investors but folded in 2001. Afterward, Yang joined a healthcare software startup, MMF Systems, Inc., as its Vice President and third hire.
After working in the healthcare industry for four years, Yang left MMF Systems to join friend Zeke Vanderhoek at a small test preparation company, Manhattan Prep. In 2006 Vanderhoek asked Yang to take over as CEO. While he was CEO of Manhattan Prep, the company primarily provided GMAT test preparation. The company expanded from five to 69 locations and was acquired by Kaplan in December 2009. Yang resigned as the company's president in early 2012.
Venture for America (VFA)Edit
Following the acquisition of Manhattan Prep in late 2009, Yang began to work on creating a new nonprofit fellowship program called Venture for America, which he founded in 2011 with the mission "to create 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".
Venture for America was launched with $200,000 and trained 40 graduates in 2012 and 69 in 2013, sending them to Baltimore, Cincinnati, Cleveland, Detroit, Las Vegas, New Orleans, Philadelphia, and Providence. This list expanded to include Columbus, Miami, San Antonio and St. Louis in 2014, with a class of 106.
VFA's strategy was to recruit the nation's top college graduates into a two-year fellowship program in which they would work for and apprentice at promising startups in developing cities across the United States. Yang's book Smart People Should Build Things argues that the top universities in the country cherry-pick the smartest kids out of small towns and funnel them into the same corporate jobs in the same big cities. Venture for America's goal is to help distribute that talent around the country and incentivize entrepreneurship for economic growth.
After 2011 VFA grew, reaching a $6 million annual operating budget in 2017, and operating in about 20 U.S. cities, adding Kansas City, Atlanta, Baltimore, Birmingham, Charlotte, Cleveland, Columbus, Denver, Miami, Nashville, Philadelphia, Pittsburgh, San Antonio, and St. Louis. Venture for America began running a "startup accelerator" in Detroit and launched a seed fund and an investment fund for fellows.
Generation Startup, a documentary film about six startups in Detroit launched through the Venture for America program, was released in 2016. It was co-directed by Cynthia Wade and Cheryl Miller Houser.
In March 2017 Yang stepped down from his position as CEO of VFA.
2020 presidential campaignEdit
On November 6, 2017, Yang filed with the Federal Election Commission (FEC) to run for President of the United States in 2020. His campaign proposes a $1,000/month "Freedom Dividend" to all U.S. citizens over the age of 18 (a form of universal basic income) in response to predictions of large-scale worker displacement due to technological automation. The other two central elements of Yang's platform are Medicare for All and "Human-Centered Capitalism." His campaign slogan is "Humanity First", which calls attention to his belief that automation of many key industries is one of the biggest threats facing the workforce.
Over 100 policies are listed on Yang's campaign website. Yang is a proponent of a carbon tax and bringing the United States back into the Paris Climate Agreement. He supports legislation against discrimination based on sexual orientation and gender identity, and has pledged to appoint pro-choice judges. A New York Times article about his campaign described various new policies Yang proposes, such as a department focused on regulating the addictive nature of media, a White House psychologist, making Election Day a national holiday, and, to stem corruption, increasing the salaries of federal regulators but limiting their private work after they leave public service.
Yang has said that he became an advocate of a universal basic income after reading American futurist Martin Ford's book Rise of the Robots: Technology and the Threat of a Jobless Future, which deals with the impact of automation and artificial intelligence on the job market and economy.
As of June 28, 2019, Yang has received donations from over 130,000 donors across at least 20 U.S. states, thereby meeting the requirements to be included in the first and second rounds of the debates for Democratic presidential primary candidates, and the donor requirement for the third and fourth rounds of debates. The Democratic National Committee randomly determined that Yang would participate in the second night of the first debate, which took place on June 27. During his first debate, Yang was asked only two questions and allowed to speak for two minutes and 56 seconds, the least time of any candidate. He claimed that his microphone malfunctioned, initially suggesting to the debate moderators that technical difficulties might have occurred. An NBC spokesperson said, "At no point during the debate was any candidate's microphone turned off or muted", but Yang and his supporters have provided video evidence they claim shows Yang speaking up but not being heard.
Yang's campaign supporters, known informally as the "Yang Gang", have brought attention to his campaign on Reddit, Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, and other social media platforms, through the use of memes and viral campaigning.
In 2012 Yang was called a "Champion of Change" by the Obama White House. In 2015 he was again acknowledged by the Obama White House as a "Presidential Ambassador for Global Entrepreneurship" (PAGE) alongside Daymond John, Brian Chesky, Steve Case, Tory Burch and several more.
As of 2018, Yang lives in New York City with his wife Evelyn and two sons. He has spoken about his older son being autistic, saying, "I'm very proud of my son and anyone who has someone on the spectrum in their family feels the exact same way."
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