2012-2013 Startup Internship Award winner, supported by the Wharton Entrepreneurship Advisory Board
How did you find the position?
I found the position at Memebox through a VC friend of mine in Seoul.
What was your motivation for working at a start-up this summer?
I wanted to work at an early-stage startup over the summer in order to gain insightful exposure to and experience in the daily operations and growing pains of a startup. I felt that the lessons I would learn at Memebox would be invaluable for when I started my own company.
What advice would you give to students interested in working at a start-up this summer?
Figure out what kind of experience you are looking for in terms of stage and industry, and then look to join a startup that offers a product or service that truly interests and intrigues you. That way, you will seize every opportunity throughout the summer to learn and enjoy yourself.
I wanted to head back to Seoul for the summer to be a part of the burgeoning startup scene. Korea has a very conservative and risk-averse society, so the fact that so many young entrepreneurs were forgoing well-regarded jobs at traditional companies to start companies of their own was an exciting trend to be witnessing, and one that I wanted to experience for myself.
I landed an internship at a beauty e-commerce startup called MemeBox through a VC contact of mine in Seoul. MemeBox, which launched in February 2012, had been able to gather more than 30,000 subscribers and catapult itself to the top of the competition by the time I got there. Needless to say, the office was always abuzz and alive with excitement. My role and responsibilities at Memebox changed almost every day over the course of the summer. And throughout the twists and turns, and ups and downs, I found myself drawing upon a lot of my past work experiences as well as lessons I had learned in my Wharton classes to help with my role at Memebox.
One of the most important lessons I learned at Memebox was to step up or be relegated to the sidelines. I had specified to the CEO before I joined that I wanted to work on logistics and operations projects. When I got to the company, I politely waited around for several days thinking that the CEO would delegate some responsibilities and projects to me. What a waste of time! The firm was far too busy and too disorganized to care for or even take any notice of me. I was expected to figure out and create my own specific projects and objectives and essentially be my own manager. This was somewhat daunting, but I also saw it as an incredible opportunity to take ownership, act as a decision-maker, and help the company find and implement new ideas.
Another big takeaway from my summer was that fantastic leaders come in all shapes and sizes. As MBA students, we are primed to believe that great leaders come from ivy league schools and pedigreed backgrounds. But this is certainly not the case. The CEO of Memebox is a guy who has taken an interesting and non-traditional path in his career, guided simply by his passion for fashion and business. Wherever these interests took him, he went, even with all the potential risks and downfalls that could follow such decisions. I greatly admire this about him. In terms of leadership personality, he was and is a calm and passionate leader who leads by example and takes his time to listen to his employees. He pridefully recognizes his own shortcomings, is confident in his strengths, and strives to learn more and be a better leader every day. It sounds like an excerpt from a piece on leadership, but to see someone that truly embodies these qualities makes me believe that great leaders come from all walks of life.
There is so much to gain from working at a startup – especially if you are the type of person that thrives on making something from nothing, finding creative ways to implement solutions or ideas, working on your own and taking ownership of your product, and learning and being open to very new and sometimes unexpected experiences and people! I can honestly say that the experience I had at Memebox, and the networks I created during my summer there are helping me immensely as I begin to launch my own business.