2011-2012 Startup Internship Award winner, supported by the Wharton Entrepreneurship Advisory Board
I worked at Mashery over the summer, which is an API (Application Programming Interface) Management SaaS company in San Francisco. My role was business development focusing on partnership establishment. My day to day job was two-fold. First there was the strategy element. Mashery didn’t have clear strategic direction on which companies they should partner with and why. Thus, I did lots of research on industry trends around different product features we had. It almost felt like I was running a consulting project, but without any other team mates. It was not very different from what I used to do for management consulting. The second element was actual negotiations. We often had inbound request from other firms on potential partnerships, so I emailed and had face to face meeting to discuss next steps. This was the more interesting part of my role since it was more operational and I actually closed one partnership which was just announced right after my summer internship.
I chose Mashery because I wanted to leverage the experience for my own start-up. I want to do a mobile/cloud business so I wanted a start-up which is developer heavy, and located in San Francisco.
I got the position through start-up auction. Finding a start-up that is looking for MBA intern was harder than expected, and I was having hard time making a list of the companies that I could even interview with. Thankfully, WEP had this awesome start-up auction program where you can find more than 20 start-ups looking for MBA interns. Mashery was one of them.
My advice for those who are looking for start-up internship is that you have to have very clear goal for your summer. I think there are four very important questions for you to answer before you start to reach out to companies. First is role. Usually MBA students’ roles are pretty limited in start-ups, but there are still differences. You want to make sure whether you want to do Product Manager role or Business development role. Some people say that roles are not that important because you can migrate your role once you get in, but I still believe it should be a key decision factor. Second factor is sector. You have to know in which industry you are interested. It could be eCommerce, mobile, cloud computing, gaming or social media. Since there are hundreds of interesting start-ups out there, you will have hard time figuring out which company to contact if you have wide range of interests. Also, it’s better to focus on a certain sector since you can build more in-depth knowledge on that sector which will help you a lot on interviews. Third is size of the company. This will change your experience dramatically. Mashery was mid-staged series C company which was not really ideal for me since I wanted smaller team but I still chose them because there were only 3 business people in the company. All other employees were either on the sales team or developers. Fourth factor is region. West coast companies have very different identity compared to east coast start-ups. NYC start-ups tend to be more innovative business model focused, whereas Bay area start-ups tend to be more tech heavy.
Lastly, I want to highlight the importance of face-to-face meetings. I tried lots of cold emails and phone interviews and they did not work really well. So I flew out to San Francisco and arranged a bunch of meetings for five days; then I got a job. I think it’s important for you to network, but you should network in person, not by emails. Try to block one or two weekends to fly to west coast if you are really interested in tech start-ups in the Bay Area.