What’s it Like Being an Intern with a Startup?

Updates from our Entrepreneurial Intern Fellows are in! These are University of Pennsylvania undergraduates and Wharton MBA first-year students who are interning with start-ups this summer.  Below are brief descriptions (in their own words) of their experiences so far from undergrads Patrick Yang, Brian Park, and Sohum Doshi and from MBA student, Tom Baldwin.

In the past month, I have done everything except for what I expected to be doing this summer. Working at a materials science startup, I thought I’d be running experiments, collecting data, and trying to refine the method for graphene production that my company, Graphene Frontiers, is exploring. In retrospect, that was quite a naive expectation! Our lab isn’t even fully set up yet, and over the last few weeks I have done a bit of everything trying to help the lab come together: I’ve spent hours looking up prices for various parts and chemicals, written an executive summary/one-pager about the company for distribution to potential partners, and even took a bit of time unpacking all of the packages that are coming into our rented lab space. I’m actually pretty happy with the way things are turning out, because I know I’ll get to start experimentation really soon when our lab finally has all of the necessary equipment, but I’m also glad for the exposure I’m getting to the variety of things that need to be done at a young startup!

–Patrick Yang (W’14/C’14).  Interning with Graphene Frontiers


I have had the pleasure of working as a Product Management Intern for Ryzing, an innovative, online social gaming startup. Coming in, I knew that I was going to receive an all-encompassing and immersive experience with an incredible team, but I could have never expected to see an acquisition occur during the course my internship. Before I joined Ryzing, the company was working with social gaming company and publisher, RockYou, on Ryzing’s product, Bingo By Ryzing. After working with the product and the team, this partnership eventually catalyzed the acquisition for Ryzing. About two-thirds of the way through my time at Ryzing, the CEO brought the team together and informed us that the deal had finalized and that we were officially employees of RockYou. It was amazing to see the hard work and great ideas of the Ryzing team come to fruition and result in a successful acquisition. The metaphorical “icing on the cake” definitely had to be the various articles written about the acquisition on VentureBeat and TechCrunch. All in all, my experience at Ryzing has been an amazing opportunity that has shown me the potential end result for a company with a driven team and a great product.

–Brian Park (W’13). Interning with Ryzing


Nestled in the heart of the New York City tech scene, Kargo is a 30-person mobile marketing start-up whose mission is to become the preferred network for ad agencies and brands. Perhaps what has surprised me most about working here has been the assortment of tasks that I have received. I have done relatively mundane work, like compiling simple reporting documents for advertisers or using my iphone to ensure quality assurance for ad placements, and I’ve have done awesome, extremely rewarding work. Building important analytics tools to measure the company’s performance, running advertising campaigns across our mobile websites for large brand, and even having the opportunity to work with Google to create a product that could potentially shape the direction of this nascent industry. Sitting in on the meetings between Kargo and larger corporations has taught me an important lesson. Start-ups can use their specialization in a particular area as a source of strength at the bargaining table, even though they have less manpower, smaller budgets, and generally less clout than large corporations.

One of the things that attracted me to Kargo was its niche in the mobile web, an area that is yet to be developed. This sentiment still holds true a month into my internship. Every day TechCrunch features another ad network or mobile marketing company who has received venture funding or gone public— someday soon that could be Kargo.

–Sohum Doshi (W’14), Interning with Kargo


One of the most exciting aspects of working at a startup is the sheer diversity of experiences you will have. This summer, I’m working at a Sao Paulo-based fashion eCommerce startup called olook (www.olook.com.br). Among other things, I’ve attended a fashion photo shoot, visited family-owned shoe production operations in Brazil’s “deep south,” sat in on a meeting with the head of Brazil’s largest media company, and developed an elaborate excel model to analyze olook’s customer lifetime value and cost of customer acquisition (by the way, here is an excellent post on how to model CLV and COCA).

Among all the experiences I’ve had, one is particularly emblematic of just how unpredictable the startup lifestyle can be. It was a typical Sao Paulo winter day – bright and sunny, the roads clogged with heavy traffic – and Peter Ostroske (fellow Whartonite and the company’s co-founder and co-CEO) asked me if I knew how to drive stick shift. He and the company’s head of logistics had a rented a manual transmission car to drive out to our warehouse, but neither of them were very good when it came to driving stick. It had been quite a while since I had gotten behind the wheel of a manual transmission vehicle (let alone in a city with traffic as intimidating as Sao Paulo’s), but I strapped myself in and prepared for an adventure! After an hour and a half of navigating around slow-moving tractor-trailers and swarms of “moto-boys” (motorcycle delivery boys), we finally arrived at our warehouse on the outskirts of Sao Paulo. We ended up having a fantastic meeting with our warehouse team, and I learned a tremendous amount about the complexities of eCommerce fulfillment in Brazil. Attached is a picture of some olook products (shoes, bags and accessories), on a pallet and awaiting shipment to Brazilian consumers. Just another day in the life of a startup intern!  To learn more about my startup adventures in Brazil, you can follow me on twitter @thomas_baldwin.

–Thomas Baldwin (WG’13). Interning with olook

3 comments on “What’s it Like Being an Intern with a Startup?

  1. I have been an entrepreneur all my life. I started, bootstrapped and sold several companies over the years. I made money on some and I lost money on some. Last year I started Date My Ride http://datemyride.com website; and no it’s not affiliated to Pimp My Ride. I never looked for angel investors or VCs but I want to give it a try now. I applied to be on ABC’s Shark Tank TV show Season 4 at http://sharktankzone.com . Wish me luck!

  2. I was an intern with http://www.opsmanaged.com/distribution and it was a great experience. The whole reason for an internship is to see how the business works and what to expect and to gain experience. I got all of those while i was in my internship. Thanks for sharing this article.

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