Working at a Start-up: More Glimpses from our Summer Interns

A few weeks ago we posted a selection of updates from several of our summer Entrepreneurial Intern Fellows. (As a reminder to our readers, we support students, on a competitive basis, who intern with start-ups over the summer.)  Below are updates from several more Entrepreneurial Intern Fellows, Eduardo Goar Mestre, Jr., Nicholas Molina, and Stevan Jovanovic.

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“Eduardo, we’re going to need you to fix up your social media presence.”

In an instant, I zoomed through my mental rolodex of Facebook photos, wondering if my brand new business development colleagues had unearthed an inappropriate pic in need of a personal-brand-saving detag. Had I been too casual and unguarded with my social profile online before starting this job?

The glass door swung open and our CEO, clad in cargo shorts and t-shirt, breezed into the conference room.  Nope.

“Eduardo, this isn’t consulting. You can stop wearing collared shirts,” he jibed.

“Also, @eduardogmestre has like 13 followers on Twitter,” added a business development colleague, “We’re gonna need to beef that up.”

Right. Though the demeanor and the atmosphere have been casual, the intellectual rigor and the precision behind our execution have been anything but—social media to extend our reach, 2X2 matrices to segment targets, and hypothesis-driven analysis of every inch of the marketplace. And I thought this was just a website. Nope.

These are smart people doing smart things. Key word doing. After I gave a presentation suggesting that an edgier tone for our home page copy would help differentiate the site, we went ahead and changed it. We needed to do some outreach with local community organizers, so we did.

It has been an exhilarating but reasonable transition from management consulting to my BD role at Kohort. I finally get to do all the things I used to tell clients that they should do. And I get to wear t-shirts.

— Eduardo Goar Mestre, Jr. (Wharton MBA, Class of 2013), interning at Kohort in New York City

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Coming to Sao Paulo to work at baby.com.br, I expected most of my surprises to revolve around Brazilian culture (and also expected people to have fun with the fact that I spoke no Portuguese upon my arrival). To be sure, some of the differences at baby.com.br are Brazilian in nature – hugs and kisses are a more typical greeting than a handshake, and people love long lunches in large groups. Still the biggest differences from my prior career are more related to start-up culture and lead me to believe that there’s something about entrepreneurship that crosses national borders and language barriers.

By the end of my first day at baby.com.br, I knew I’d have the opportunity to make a great impact. On my first day, I didn’t have a computer, so I spent my time talking to people and figuring out what they do. After a few “What if we did this?” sorts of conversations, I got people excited about a (now forthcoming) ‘For Moms’ section of the website. Later, we were able to create an ‘Outlet’ section that is already up and running. The ease of communicating with people, their openness to suggestions, and the speed of implementation are, simply put, refreshing.

More broadly, the benefits of being at a start-up are that no day is boring. Every day is full of part strategy and part tactical action. It’s great to work with people who are focused on making the company successful in any way they can. Ostensibly, I have spent my summer working on inventory management and creating processes to improve our system as we scale, but at baby.com.br that means I’ve also spent time discussing web design, creating some new marketing plans, and going to our warehouse to understand our receiving and shipping procedures. If I were to get bored, it would squarely be my own fault.

It’s been a great experience and I continue to enjoy the projects I work on. It is a nice feeling to have when you can make a difference while having fun and making new friends. Add to that the fact that no one has (yet) tricked me into saying anything in Portuguese that would be embarrassing, and I’d say it’s been a successful adventure!

Nicholas Molina (Wharton MBA, Class of 2013), Interning with Baby.com.br in Sao Paolo, Brazil.  Baby.com.br was co-founded by Davis Smith (Wharton MBA /MA Lauder Program, Class of 2011).

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One of the nice things that comes with working at a start-up, other than knowing that you’re building a new business and changing an industry, is that many policies and rules that are in place at large, established companies are not necessary (yet). One nice example is pet policy. The start-up I work at this summer is pre-revenue, i.e. there is no manufacturing. So there is no safety reason why an employee could not bring his or her pet to work, assuming it’s well behaved…. And that’s how my dog Hamish, a one-year-old Bernese Mountain dog, got to come to work and have fun!

Stevan Jovanovic (Wharton MBA, Class of 2013), Interning with SustainX in New Hampshire

Hamish relaxes at SustainX in NH