2015-2016 Startup Internship Award winner, supported by the Dr. William Zucker Entrepreneurial Intern Fellowship fund
How did you find the position? I knew that after my freshman year, I wanted to go back home to the Bay Area and work at a startup in the Silicon Valley. Though I used a variety of internship posting sites, I eventually found my internship through iNet, an internship site limited to several top universities including Penn. What was your motivation for working at a start-up this summer? I’ve always wanted to start my own company, so I knew that I wanted to intern at least once at a startup to have that exposure. I also wanted to have different experiences each summer, and I thought that the summer after my freshman year would be the best time to take a risk at a place that would be different from what most people do. From a practical standpoint, not many large companies want college freshman interns, so a start-up gave me the chance to have work experience without having to use personal connections.
The biggest motivator would be that start-ups generally offer more independence, so I assumed that I would be able to work on projects that were more interesting to me because there is just so much to do at a growing company. Luckily this turned out to be true, but an unexpected, resulting perk is that I was also able to serve a variety of different roles, gaining insight into such more than what I initially expected I would learn. What advice would you give to students interested in working at a start-up this summer? You have to be comfortable with a later timeline than regular firms because many earlystage start-ups don’t plan so far ahead with their funds and time. In addition, you should show that you are passionate about entrepreneurial culture, the start-up’s vision, and willingness to work. To that last point, it is valuable to show that you have a variety of skills that can be applied to multiple roles as needed. A lot of founders are following their vision, and they want to work with people who are going to buy into that vision as well. Thus, demonstrating that you want to change the world with them is the best way to their hearts. Founders love talking about their ideas, so showing that you value innovation and entrepreneurship will go a long way to helping secure that internship. As a Product and Business Development Intern, I was primarily working on product management and fundraising efforts. Working on
As a Product and Business Development Intern, I was primarily working on product management and fundraising efforts. Working on product meant that I helped improve the website mockup, created internal documents organizing the user-flow, and assisted in designing and writing the content for certain user interactions. Business development largely encompassed reaching out to customers, working on the pitch deck, and sitting in on a couple of investor meetings in order to provide objective feedback to the CEO. Throughout the internship, I would also work in other functional areas as needed, such as HR when posting more intern positions, communicating with applicants, or introducing new hires to our idea and product. Over time, my role grew as the CEO gave me more autonomy on my projects and allowed me to take ownership over some aspects, which meant that I was able to make decisions that made a tangible impact on the company. One amazing experience I vividly remember was sitting in on a pitch meeting with a corporate venture capitalist. Being at the table was an inspiring experience because I was able to see the questions that the VC was asking and how my boss would respond in a way to illustrate his vision as well as his business acumen. Being around my CEO was also a wonderful learning opportunity. As a serial entrepreneur, he knew in advance many of the challenges inherent to growing a company and was kind enough to mentor me throughout the summer with insights and advice for my future. The ability to observe a founder in their element taught me a great deal about entrepreneurship and what it takes to make a start-up succeed.