Jason Reaves WG’15, at VeryApt in Philadelphia, PA

2014-2015 Ambassador of Entrepreneurship

Sutton Entrepreneurial Intern Fellow

How did you find the position?
I found the position through MBACM.
What was your motivation for working at a start-up this summer?
I wanted to work at a startup because I am trying to start my own company and saw this as a great way to learn how the process works and get a better sense of if I have the qualities and resources needed to build a company from the ground up.
What advice would you give to students interested in working at a start-up this summer?
Advice I would give students wanting to work at a start-up: start-ups are typically very lean, so you may find periods where you’re doing more “admin” type work than at more traditional internships. That said, if you find a founder that is fair with the work they delegate, you can learn more, have more impact, and get exposed to a broader variety of projects than a traditional internship. While there were occasional times when I had do repetitive work, like add building information to the VeryApt site, or dig through websites to create contact lists for sales calls, I was also given very interesting projects, such as creating a mockup of their mobile app from scratch, learning how to use Google Analytics to measure and segment the traffic that was going to our site, and launching and managing their email marketing campaigns.
I worked at VeryApt over the summer. VeryApt is an apartment search site started by two Wharton ’14 MBA students and aimed at making the apartment search process easier. They do this by providing apartment results that are more relevant to the user than typical sites and having more trusted review content than the competition.
I was drawn to the start-up scene because I wanted to start my own company and had no idea where to begin. For this reason I focused on finding a very early stage company with a great team. I felt a smaller company would be the best way to learn how to manage my own company and also allow me to be in an impactful role. The team was equally important because most lean start-ups don’t have a lot of people and you may find yourself doing administrative work. Conversely the right founders will keep your interests and those of the company in mind, giving you a balance between interesting, impactful projects and possibly repetitive tasks. For me I was pretty open to the industry, and just wanted to be somewhere dissimilar to my last job in aviation/manufacturing.
I learned an immense amount over the summer, and highly encourage anyone on the fence about working at a start-up over the summer to try it. Having only worked in a traditional corporate setting beforehand, it was refreshing to be exposed to this totally new (to me) startup culture. I enjoyed being able to come to work in shorts and a t-shirt each day (especially since I was biking there on 90 degree summer days!), and felt the lean, startup principles were very in line with my way of thinking as a prior industrial engineer. Prior to the summer, I had no experience with google analytics, didn’t know what SEO even meant, and had no clue about how to design a mobile app. After 3 months, I had created custom dashboards fed by Google Analytics’’ API data, identified different segments of traffic to the VeryApt site and figured out how to improve their experience, and created a wireframe for their mobile app. I also learned what it really meant to start a business. I understood the truly grinding hard work that it sometimes took to make things work, and internalized the notion that a business idea isn’t nearly as important as its execution. Perhaps more importantly though, I was able to answer whether or not I would be able to push my idea forward as a business. I am happy to say that that answer is “yes,” and, with the help and guidance of the successful VeryApt team, I was able to figure out a plan to move my company forward.
Now that school’s back in full swing and I’ve caught up with what others did over the summer, I am truly appreciative that I had the opportunity to work at a start-up in Philadelphia. Sure, it may not sound as sexy as having worked at a startup in SF, or even having tried banking or consulting, but I can honestly say the experience was impactful, I learned a ton, and I had a great, balanced summer trying something completely new.
And at the end of the day, isn’t that the point?