2012-2013 Wharton Entrepreneurship Advisory Board Intern Fellow
How did you find the position?
Was put in touch with the CEO by a family member
What was your motivation for working at a start-up this summer?
I wanted to see how I responded to an entrepreneurial environment and a work experience that differed greatly from my previous work in investment banking and private equity
What advice would you give to students interested in working at a start-up this summer?
Try to attend as many of the speakers/events/conferences as you can and be diligent in monitoring the start-up world by regularly following services like TechCrunch and AllThingsD
After working in private equity and investment banking, I wanted to spend the summer outside my comfort zone and found an opportunity working with an early stage start-up while at school. Through an introduction from my father, I met the CEO of a company called Great-Karma.com. Great-Karma.com is a scalable, global, digital solution for lost-and-found, dedicated to reuniting lost items with their rightful owners efficiently, and often in real time. With an initial focus on the travel industry, the Company is transforming the age-old system of inefficient, brick-and-mortar lost-and-found services into a single, real-time solution.
I thought that the value proposition to both travelers and corporate customers made sense. Heading into second semester, I decided to utilize my Innovation and Change class in entrepreneurship to help tackle some of the Company’s strategic challenges and get buy-in from both my peers and the professor. From school, I worked on preparing the operating model and necessary presentation documents for fundraising. In early June, the Company was fortunate to secure an initial round of funding in the form of a bridge loan.
I came into the summer to serve as the interim COO and head of business development. Over that period, I focused on refining our revenue model and securing meetings with potential corporate clients. Given our target corporate customers were Fortune 500 companies in the travel industry, determining the best way to access and sell to these companies was essential. The initial task was to determine the key industries to target and we settled upon airlines, airports, hotels and car rental companies. One of my biggest challenges was determining the scope of a particular company’s lost-and-found problem. Company income statements don’t include a line item for lost-and-found expense and don’t possess a single, centralized lost-and-found. After numerous phone calls with lost-and-found personnel across industries, I began to understand the scale of the problem and the number of passengers/guests that were being impacted.
After discovering the needs of our prospective corporate clients, my role shifted to determining how best to sell into these corporations. Great-Karma.com provides an online portal for lost-and-found and has a proprietary “matching” software that matches items that have been lost with those that have been found. Viewing lost-and-found as a brand management and customer loyalty tool, we targeted the corporate marketing teams. Over the course of many meetings this summer, it became crystal clear that finance divisions and many operations personnel recognized lost-and-found as simply a cost center but marketing teams viewed our product differently. They viewed our service as a customer retention tool and an additional service to tie in with existing loyalty programs.
Since none of our potential clients would immediately roll out the Great-Karma.com lost-and-found to all of their offices/hotels/airport terminals, we targeted pilot programs at key locations. The pilots allowed us to work “on the same side of the table” as our clients and collaborate with them to address their lost-and-found needs. With minimal costs to implement, this pilot program model gave us an entry with our first group of core clients. Towards the end of my internship, I spent a lot of time trying to determine how to price our offering as a software-as-a-service rather than simply a per transaction revenue model. When I left the company in August, we had succeeded in securing pilot programs with Hyatt, Avis and Orlando Airport.
In retrospect, I’m glad that I stepped outside the traditional internship bubble and worked with an early stage startup. I think it’s important to determine if you like working as an entrepreneur and I don’t know of a better time to take some risk and try something new than your MBA summer.