2007-2008 Startup Internship Award winner
Liquid Machines–have you ever heard of them? That’s okay, neither had I at the time I was looking for a summer internship. But organizations such as Goldman Sachs, Chico’s, Corning and Motorola certainly have because Liquid Machines’ security software helps them to protect and control their sensitive data every day at the very granular content-level. Who else has heard of Liquid Machines, you ask? Well, how about the other key players in the SISA Alliance (EMC, Cisco, Microsoft), some of the top VC firms in the country (DFJ, Atlas Ventures and Masthead Ventures) and of course, the many customers that are fueling Liquid Machines’ 162% quarter-over-quarter sales growth. From the outside, you would never realize that Liquid Machines is a company of only 60 employees.
As a Wharton Entrepreneurial Intern Fellow, I was asked to write about my internship experience. In many ways, I wouldn’t consider my experience at Liquid Machines an “internship.” This is partly because I was immediately accepted into the small team of senior marketing and product management folks and was asked to take on key responsibilities as if I were a new full-time hire. It is also partly because I worked on the company’s most pressing sales and marketing initiatives and had a large impact on the team’s success and progress into new market segments and sales channels. To say this was an “internship” is understating the experience.
Before I get ahead of myself, let’s take a few steps back to December 2006 when I started to investigate internship opportunities at high-growth tech firms. How did I go about the entire search process? Nearly completely through networking! Yeah, this term is so cliché – but what do I really mean when I use the term to describe my search for an internship? For me, networking is attending venture capital conferences, speaking with entrepreneurs and angel investors, reconnecting with former colleagues, reaching out to Wharton alumni, students, faculty and staff, leveraging my undergraduate alumni network, researching companies online, and of course lots and lots of phone calls, emails and thank you notes. Of all of those “networking” tasks which ones actually led me to the Liquid Machines opportunity? In fact, more than half of them did in one way or another.
When I was investigating internship opportunities, I had three key decision criteria in mind: 1) To gain experience in Product Management and Business Development; 2) To show tangible results that would have a noticeable impact on the company; 3) To have flexibility in the internship schedule to allow me to join the Wharton/INSEAD exchange program in an attempt to graduate early. Sure, I passed up opportunities to work at one of the most sought-after tech companies in the Bay Area and at the latest startup of one of the most well-known Internet entrepreneurs. But of all the companies that I spoke with throughout my internship recruiting, I felt that my three decision criteria were best met by an internship at Liquid Machines.
There were several specific things that tipped the scales heavily in favor of Liquid Machines. First, I could not pass up the opportunity to work with a technology leader and entrepreneur that I highly respect and from whom I expected to learn a lot. Second, I knew that my internship at Liquid Machines would be highly customized to meet my specific objectives. In fact, my high expectations were met throughout my internship as I participated in a Board of Directors meeting, had periodic one-on-one discussions with the CEO and senior VP’s and led projects that involved many divisions within the company. Third, I wanted to work at a company where I could see myself working after graduating from Wharton. Finally, I knew that I could hit the ground running at Liquid Machines and be able to show tangible results in such a short period of time.
So, what did I actually accomplish during my summer?
- I rolled out sales & marketing tools to address the departmental security needs of Human Resources, Finance and Legal organizations within Enterprise companies.
- I conducted extensive competitive research and made strategic recommendations to the VP of Product Management and Chief Architect regarding future product releases.
- I developed the go-to-market strategy for Liquid Machines’ solutions in the Life Sciences sector.
- I learned a ton!
While Liquid Machines is not quite a “startup” as you would imagine a Silicon Valley startup to be – it certainly is a “venture-backed,” “high-growth,” “well-positioned” company, with seasoned executives at the helm and a defensible position to take an even bigger bite out of the huge Enterprise security market. I’m excited about the opportunities that lie ahead for Liquid Machines; and I’m equally excited that I was a part of the company at this stage in its development.