2014-2015 Neff Entrepreneurial Intern Fellow
How did you find the position?
Contact at Penn
What was your motivation for working at a start-up this summer?
I’ve always been interested in entrepreneurship, and start-ups are much more willing to hire freshmen and give them actual responsibilities within the company. I wanted to do something that had actual impact, and I definitely achieved that.
What advice would you give to students interested in working at a start-up this summer?
Don’t be afraid to reach out to the company’s CEO and express interest in the company. Start-ups are not nearly as formal as large corporations and you’re very likely to get a response. Working at a start-up is very teamwork-oriented, and the faster you can create a good rapport with your teammates, the better! Also, you will have a much more rewarding experience if you believe in what the company does. This sounds obvious, but I worked in an accelerator space around many other companies, and the interns who didn’t believe in the long-term success of the companies they worked at were much unhappier with their jobs. Working at a start-up allows you, even as an intern, to develop a deeper commitment to the company because it’s so much more personal.
This past summer, I interned at Identified Technologies Corporation, a startup founded in 2013 by a former Penn student. Identified Technologies develops unmanned aerial systems that gather data more easily and frequently for the oil and gas industry. I acquired the job through networking within Weiss Tech House and reaching out to past PennVention winners. I was inspired to apply for an internship at Identified after exchanging emails with the company’s CEO regarding his experiences in entrepreneurship. Although they initially only sought out interns to work in software and web development, the CEO decided to consider me for a business-side internship because I showed genuine interest in working at Identified through our email exchange.
As a marketing intern, I headed up multiple campaigns to spread awareness of the company within the oil & gas industry. Furthermore, I took charge of a full company rebranding effort, including helping to design a new logo and revamp Identified’s social media presence. Looking back, I was definitely intimidated by some of the projects that I was assigned (it’s one thing to oversee a company’s Twitter feed, but quite another to facilitate a complete company rebranding). However, the amount of responsibility that I had while working at Identified is definitely what made my experience so worthwhile. Despite only working for the company for the summer, I felt truly committed to their efforts. There is definitely something to be said about working so closely and personally with such a small team. Because I enjoyed my time at Identified so much, I am working part-time remotely for them this school year.
Though my main job description consisted of marketing, I was interested in taking on responsibilities in other fields. Startups are the perfect place to achieve breadth in terms of experience because there is much less bureaucracy and red tape. At a large-scale corporate job, an intern might be assigned a few tasks to accomplish over the course of his/her internship, but at a startup I had the opportunity to explore multiple fields with greater ease. With a positive attitude and a willingness to face challenging situations, it was possible to take on incredible responsibilities at Identified Technologies. After I had proven my competency and reliability as an employee, I simply let my boss know that I was interested in having a more varied experience and had a few meetings about how best to align my interests with the company’s needs. A month into my internship, I began to handle basic accounting for the company, working with QuickBooks on a daily basis. In particular, I helped with budget projections and payrollaccounting. Near the end of my internship, I was also given the opportunity to work with intellectual property. Before this summer, I had very limited knowledge of patents and IP, but I was still given the opportunity to contribute descriptions and patent diagrams for two patents. I learned about the process for filing a patent as well as the components of different types of patents through my research of existing patents in the UAV space.
When I decided to work at a startup, I was hoping to gain more insight into entrepreneurship as a whole—and I was not at all disappointed. Being fully immersed in a startup environment (especially relevant in my case because Identified was in an office with eight other startups as part of AlphaLab Gear, an accelerator program) was more educational than any books I’ve ever read, classes I’ve ever attended, or speaker panels I’ve ever listened to. I listened to more pitches than I ever knew I wanted to hear; and more importantly, I saw how they developed and improved over time. I was able to listen in as CEOs of multiple companies received pitch critiques from fellow entrepreneurs and investor mentors. Being a spectator in many of these conversations taught me how to better convey my ideas, whether in the form of a pitch or in general conversation. Later on in my internship, I was also able to work on creating pitch decks for investors, which gave me greater insight into business models, market sizing, and how to create investor confidence.
After having an incredible experience at Identified Technologies, I am definitely interested in working at a startup again. I loved being able to work so closely with a small team every day. I stayed late every day and came to the office at Saturdays as well simply because I enjoyed the work I did so much. I was surrounded by accomplished and inspiring individuals who were willing and excited to share their experiences with me. I learned much more than I expected about the behind the scenes of starting a company simply by being around it every day. This summer was an amazing experience because I was able to explore many potential career paths in the span of three months. To anyone with the least bit interest in entrepreneurship, I would highly recommend working at a startup!