CommonBond: The Entrepreneurial Internship Experience

By Timothy Hager WG’15, Neff Entrepreneurial Intern Fellow

How did you find the position?

I had heard about the company myself through the MBA community, and secured the position through Wharton MBA Career Management.

CommonBond group sm
The CommonBond team, summer 2015.

What was your motivation for working at a start-up this summer?

I spent three years prior to Wharton providing venture financing to start-up companies and wanted to supplement that experience with some core, operating experience helping a company grow. Learning from talented entrepreneurs is the best way to get this experience.

What advice would you give to students interested in working at a start-up this summer?

Unlike mature recruiting where the process is very formalized and most of the networking opportunities are presented to you, startup recruiting is all about what you do on your own. Take initiative in seeking out startups that interest you, get to know their business models inside and out, and be proactive in explaining to the company how you can add value on day one.

[tweetthis alt=”The opportunity to make a measurable impact: that’s why Tim Hager #WG15 interned at a #startup. Via @WhartonEntrep” hashtag=”” url=”” ]The Opportunity to Make a Measurable Impact[/tweetthis]

There is a lot of talk in the working world about making a measurable impact on your firm’s performance. Especially as MBAs with big career aspirations, most of us have a strong desire to impact the top and bottom line of the firms we will go on to work for after graduation. Now, there are surely many ways to have a “tangible” impact on your firm, but there is no disputing that a start-up environment provides an optimal opportunity to create that sort of measurable impact early on in your career.

I spent this past summer at an innovative financial services company called CommonBond, founded by Wharton alumni David Klein, Mike Taormina, and Jessup Shean, where I learned firsthand what it was like to see and feel an immediate connection between the work I did and the company’s P&L. This connection manifested itself in two big ways:

Goals: I can clearly remember my pre-MBA days at a large publically traded firm, where my semi-annual goals were nothing more than a string of nice sounding adjectives on paper, with little measurable criteria. The goal setting process at CommonBond proved to be quite different. On day number one of my summer internship, I sat down with the CEO to go over my goals and targets for the nine weeks. Rather than a goal saying, “Focus on developing the value proposition for corporate partnerships and begin executing them,” my goal was “Develop the value proposition for corporate partnership opportunities, identify 100 potential partners, source 25 strong leads, 10 qualified leads, and close 2 partnerships.” Just having a hard number in the back of my mind the entire summer made me grind that much harder over every opportunity that came my way.

Results and Accountability: At the end of the summer, reality came knocking and numbers did the talking. To cite a positive example, one of my workstreams involved analyzing the attractiveness of a totally new market segment and leading marketing efforts through multiple channels by which we could reach those new potential customers; at the end of the nine weeks, CommonBond had legitimate customers [and therefore revenue] in that segment – a segment that for all intents and purposes did not even exist nine weeks earlier. This is a phenomenal feeling! On the flip side of this example is a story where I learned the hard way just how difficult it is to close partnerships with F500 Companies. On the surface, my goal of closing two such partnerships seemed achievable; however, the arduous lifecycle of sourcing, negotiating, and closing a deal proved to be a task that I could not get fully across the finish line in the nine week timeframe. There was no bureaucratic team structure to hide behind; I owned the results for my work, and the accountability fell directly on me.

Overall, if you want to be challenged [in a good way], if you want to hold full accountability over your actions and results, if you want to be closer to revenue and profit that you ever were before, think about joining a startup. My only recommendation – pick one that you have a passion for; it makes the work meaningful, and of course makes it fly by!

Entrepreneurial Intern Fellowships are available to Penn/Wharton Undergraduates and First Year MBAs. They are awarded to students who plan to spend the summer in an entrepreneurial setting and who demonstrate both a commitment to entrepreneurship at Penn and to pursuing an entrepreneurial career. To learn more or to apply, click here.

Timothy Hager Headshot smBio: Tim Hager WG’15 grew up in Bucks County, PA, and attended Georgetown University for his undergraduate degree. Prior to coming to Wharton, Tim spent two years pursuing his dream as a professional golfer.  Following that career, Tim spent three years in the venture finance world, providing growth capital to early stage technology companies.  This past summer, Tim worked at the Wharton startup, CommonBond.