Bienvenidos a Mexico! My Summer at a Wharton FinTech Startup

By Zach Kahn WG’16

Much of my career before Wharton was spent in the nonprofit sector. I worked both domestically and abroad (in South America) in my previous life. Coming to Wharton I hoped to learn not only about how businesses could address social issues outside of the traditional nonprofit/NGO model, but also learn about where I fit into the larger picture.

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As I sought out my summer internship, I considered my experience in microfinance as a Kiva Fellow with and my knowledge of lending, crowdfunding, and financial inclusion. I decided that the best way to leverage my past experiences and current interests in using technology for social good would be to intern at a FinTech startup. I originally intended to go to the heart of the startup world and intern in San Francisco, but life had other plans (as it usually does if you are a Wharton MBA candidate).

This summer, I was a business development intern at – a Mexico City-based FinTech startup founded by two Wharton graduates: Abdon Nacif WG’14 and Fernando Gomez WG’14. Nexu is focused on increasing access to loans for Mexicans. They partner with financial institutions to connect clients with affordable loans via their online portal. Less than a year from launch, Nexu is already growing quickly—it jumped from ten employees to fifteen during my ten weeks there—and attracted an important investment from a local strategic partner. It was an exciting time to join!

Here are a handful of neatly formatted insights from my summer interning abroad at a startup:

I had high expectations. At the beginning of the summer, I made a list of what I wanted to learn and accomplish…

  • How to build a business (seriously)
  • Understand the challenges faced by young entrepreneurs
  • Work on a relevant, impactful project
  • End my ten weeks with concrete results and proof of my impact (and ensure sustainability of my work to ensure continuity post-internship)

So what did I learn?

  • An entrepreneur juggles many things: hiring, team building, team management, creating/maintaining/adapting a company culture, etc.
  • Things don’t always move at a pace you’d like, especially over the summer
  • “The Hustle”—do what it takes to get it done, no matter your seniority
  • To maximize productivity and effectiveness, there always need to be clear expectations and a defined division of roles and responsibilities—both for supervisors and supervisees

But nobody’s perfect. I would have done a few things differently…

  • Ask more clarifying questions—if you don’t know, ask.
  • Speak up—if you think something, say something.
  • Be proactive—because at a startup, you are expected to embrace your independence.
  • Get to know more of my teammates – it shouldn’t be too hard to befriend ten colleagues.

Zachary Kahn_Wharton_Headshot smBio: Zach is a WG’16 from Ossining, NY and a graduate of Northwestern University. Before Wharton he worked at various nonprofits and technology firms. He is focusing his MBA studies on entrepreneurship, with a particular interest in mobile payments and cryptocurrencies in emerging markets.