Daniel Cervoni W’16 interned at PopDeem in Dublin, Ireland

2015-2016 Startup Internship Award winner, supported by the Sutton Entrepreneurship Intern Fellowship Award

Coming into Wharton, known primarily for finance, I got caught up like many others and believed I wanted to have a career in finance. In fact, I had wanted to earn a finance concentration and I even planned my schedule so I could take as many finance classes as possible. Then came the summer going into junior year, where I had finally landed an internship in sales & trading at JP Morgan. While I had an amazing experience and met many great people, I realized that finance was not something I was interested in pursuing as a career. I got bored very quickly in corporate life and was not passionate about my work. I did not want to be analyzing companies from the outside but rather I wanted to be making impactful business decisions everyday. I wanted to be able to be involved in all aspects of the company including business development, operations, and marketing.

I realized that my ambition to create something that I could call my own, from top to bottom, was what really drove me to be passionate about something. Startups are amazing because everyday you make decisions that can greatly impact the future of your company. The continuously changing environment keeps you on the tips of your toes– an environment I thrive in. When I realized this, I immediately switched my concentration from finance to entrepreneurial management — which I successfully completed this year with a 3.75 concentration GPA.

Once I made this decision, I began involving myself more in startups on Penn’s campus, which led to my involvement in RedCup. RedCup is a University of Pennsylvania mobile-based app that allows students to discover all nightlife events that are happening on campus. As Chief Marketing Officer, I was responsible for promoting the app among fraternities and incoming freshman. In its first week, the app garnered 3,500 downloads and, over the course of several months, was able to maintain an active user base of 2,000 weekly users. In addition to this, I am also heavily involved with other entrepreneur ventures on campus.

This summer was my opportunity to learn everything I could about start-ups and how to build a successful one. I also had aspirations to travel abroad, even if only for a few weeks. While I knew I would be working on my own entrepreneur ventures throughout the summer, I also decided that it would be very beneficial for me to intern at an already established startup to learn more about the day-to-day management and general operations. Because of this, I decided to take the opportunity to work at a social reward startup called PopDeem in Dublin, Ireland – an opportunity I found through a US-based startup called SageCorps. PopDeem is a social marketing platform that allows brands to reward their customers for sharing local experiences. By rewarding customers for sharing these experiences on social networks, brands can turn loyal customers into brand advocates. Brands can run mobile promotions that incentivize users to share content on social networks at specific venues. Popdeem has been conducting many case
studies with smaller, local restaurants and coffee shops and has had great success. The team is currently comprised of 8 members — 4 on the business side and 4 on the development side.
While my role as an intern there had a strong focus on business development & sales, that wasn’t all I learned about there. As a business development intern, I was responsible for lead generation and prospecting future clients for one of Ireland’s leading tech start-ups. Over my two months, I prospected over 600 potential customers and generated 18 new leads worth €2.7 million in lifetime value. In addition, I helped implement an optimization system to increase open rates from 31% to 52% over the course of 3 months via A/B testing outbound email campaigns, reporting and optimizing on a daily basis.

Business development & sales is truly a game of intelligent hustle. Whoever hustles best will win clients. But I knew I wanted to learn more about startups than just sales. Fortunately, I sat next to the head of UI design, who over the course of two months helped me become proficient in Adobe Photoshop CS6 and Illustrator  which I now use when creating UI designs for my own app venture. This was an invaluable lesson that helped my team and I push out our venture quicker and more professionally.

Lastly, I learned about the culture and day-to-day operations required to be successful in a startup. Popdeem’s CEO was very open with me in sharing his knowledge and insights about how to maintain a strong, hardworking culture while also having an enjoyable time. But there were also days where hard decisions had to be made, including firing the head of business development since he wasn’t performing. I experienced this, and I’m glad I did, because I learned that these decisions sometimes have to be made in order to preserve momentum and culture.

My current venture is a social media app called FOMO! (Fear of Missing Out). FOMO! acts like an anonymous visual forum for your area. Organized around the topics your area cares most about, FOMO! allows users to stream in realtime the pictures and videos posted by people near you or from your school. You can submit the content you find relevant to topics already made – or create your own topic for the community to experience and add to.
Instead of sorting content around individuals (i.e Snapchat MyStory), the app sorts content by local topics of interest. Rather than having to sift through content attached to someone’s identity, you can decide which topics you find interesting and view all the pictures and videos people in your area have taken related to that topic with the same viewing format as Snapchat.
The iOS mobile app launched Friday, October 2nd. In its 2 weeks, the app has seen over 1200 downloads with over 200 topics made and over 1500 pictures and videos uploaded. My roommates and I decided to take a year off of school in order to fully commit ourselves to our product, and we are excited for the future.

Ultimately, as I’ve continued developing my own venture with my roommates, I feel my experience over the summer has helped me be as prepared as I possibly could be to take on the challenges I’m currently facing. Sometimes, the hardest thing as an entrepreneur is know what to do next. When forming a startup, there is so much that needs to be done so quickly that sometimes you lose sight. Having this experience at Popdeem though has helped me navigate through the chaotic times successfully and be confident in my work.