How did you find the position? (i.e., cold calling, MBACM, WEP auction, etc.)
I was first introduced to TaskRabbit through the Wharton start-up auction in April, which is an awesome program and resource that WEP offers. However, prior to that I had spent months doing industry and company research until I had some clear opinions on what specific trends within consumer internet I was excited about, what companies I thought were interesting, etc. I was constantly trying to immerse myself in the tech and start-up world whenever possible. In addition to reading tech blogs every day, I was calling friends in the start-up world to talk about business ideas and trends, participating in as many Philly / Wharton entrepreneurial programs as possible, and I spent my Spring break at SXSW in Austin, TX (a major internet start-up conference that has some great parties too). Then, in late March I started reaching out to start-ups with my resume and some brief thoughts on why I liked their company and how I thought I could add value during a 3-month internship. I would recommend that anyone looking to work at a start-up for the summer go through a similar process. That way, not only will you likely have some great offers to consider by the time the Wharton start-up auction happens in April, but you’ll be well prepared for interviews and know exactly which companies are a good fit for you.
What was your motivation for working at a start-up this summer?
After working in finance for a number of years, I realized that I really wanted to be an entrepreneur, or at least work with early stage companies. So, I came back to business school as a way of making that career transition happen. I considered venture capital at first, since I thought it would allow me to work with early stage companies and utilize my investment experience, but kept gravitating back to the idea of either starting my own company or working at a start-up for the summer. I decided to work at a start-up for the summer partly because I wasn’t particularly excited about any business ideas that I’d developed at that point, and partly because I wanted to really get my hands dirty and gain some relevant operating experience at a well-funded company that was already seeing impressive traction and growth.
How would you describe the overall quality of your summer internship? What were your job responsibilities?
My summer at TaskRabbit was an amazing learning experience and a ton of fun. For anyone that might be unfamiliar with the business, TaskRabbit is an online marketplace where people can outsource their errands and to-dos to other vetted people in their community (think eBay for services). The timing of my summer internship was perfect, since they had just closed on a large round of venture capital funding, and needed help with the planning and implementation of a nation-wide rollout that would grow the business substantially during my time there.
TaskRabbit is a pretty lean start-up, so I was able to work on wide variety of projects throughout the summer and was exposed to a number of functional business areas that I did not have much previous experience. My responsibilities ranged from acting as a product manager, to implementing new online and grassroots marketing tactics, to performing analysis on customer and sales data, to utilizing my past experience to help build a detailed operating plan and financial model. The great part about working at a start-up is that you typically are granted a great deal of autonomy in choosing what you work on (within reason) and you can take on as much responsibility as you can show you are capable of. I found that to be the case at TaskRabbit at least, and more importantly, I was surrounded by extremely talented people that put a tremendous amount of effort into making sure that I achieved my goals for the summer. As a result, I learned a tremendous amount and really felt like I was able to make some tangible contributions during my three-month internship. I also improved my Ping-Pong game.
What advice would you give to students interested in working at a start-up this summer?
Be a self-starter, both in your job search and once you are on the job. There isn’t much handholding at start-ups, so you have to be comfortable with an unstructured environment and always be focused on execution rather than just doing analysis and making recommendations. Also, I found that in Silicon Valley at least, MBAs aren’t given the same “red carpet” treatment that they are in finance and other industries. So, the best way to succeed is to be ready to fold t-shirts and make coffee when necessary, but also be ready to capitalize on opportunities to utilize your past experience to add value whenever you can. That might sound somewhat harsh, but as long as you are passionate about what you are doing and don’t have a sense of entitlement, working at a start-up can be extremely rewarding and a lot of fun. Entrepreneurship is a much riskier and uncertain route than other options that MBAs are afforded, but it can potentially be a very fulfilling career path. The great thing about business school is you can try anything out for a summer to see if it’s the right fit for you.