THE 2009-2010 AMBASSADOR OF ENTREPRENEURSHIP
Wharton Entrepreneurship Advisory Board Intern Fellowship recipient
I found the position through a personal contact.
What was your motivation for working at a start-up this summer?
My motivations were to gain additional experience in an industry that is new to me, and to get involved in an exciting early-stage venture.
What advice would you give to students interested in working at a start-up this summer?
Working at a startup is an opportunity to get involved in all parts of a business, and this will be valuable experience whether or not you plan to start your own business in the future.
About the Summer Experience
I interned this summer with Atlas Renewables, an early stage wind and solar developer. In utility-scale renewable energy, developers are those who identify project opportunities and arrange all that is required to construct the project and sell power, including siting, land acquisition or leases, permitting, negotiating a Power Purchase Agreement with a utility, arranging financing, and arranging for construction.
I joined Atlas Renewables with an open-ended arrangement with the company’s founder, rather than a specific role laid out. The startup had just launched, and I understood that any such plan would likely change as the needs of the company evolved. At this stage, the company’s founder was in the process of evaluating a number of possible products to pursue, each of which represented an innovative approach to wind and solar farms – whether based on location, technology, financing, or customer. My work at Atlas began with quantitatively evaluating and modeling each of these wind and solar products, in order to determine which would provide a cost of power low enough to be attractive to utility customers.
This type of financial analysis, which occupied me for much of the summer, was not exactly what I had expected when the summer began. I am a Strategic Management major with little background in finance before my MBA, and I considered my strengths to be elsewhere. However, this financial analysis was clearly a priority for the company, and my finance background was enough to get me started. Solar and wind developers like Atlas typically do not attract a large number of MBAs, and those of us who do work for these companies often find ourselves with a relative strength in areas such as financial analysis.
While this work was not what I expected, it turned out to be a great way for me to learn about the financial drivers of the wind and solar development business. In a larger firm with more MBA employees, I would not have been tasked with such a project, and this was an opportunity for me to gain valuable experience and skills.
Moreover, a startup inevitably draws its employees into aspects of the business aside from their designated project, and my summer experience was no exception. I would speak daily with the founder about the strategic options facing Atlas Renewables. My analysis was an important input into these decisions, and I was actively involved in applying this analysis to business decisions.
This varied experience is, in my opinion, the greatest advantage in working for a startup. As firms get larger, roles become more specialized, and while this may increase the efficiency of the business, it can inhibit employees’ learning and creativity. I continue to consult for Atlas Renewables, and my experience with the company has been a tremendous opportunity to gain a broad exposure of the industry, as well as an excellent complement to my classroom-based education at Wharton.