2015-2016 Startup Internship Award winner, supported by the Sutton Entrepreneurial Intern Fellowship fund
How did you find the position?
I found the position through Endeavor
What was your motivation for working at a start-up this summer?
What advice would you give to students interested in working at a start-up this summer?
Be passionate about the start-up you are going to work for. Entrepreneurs live and breathe their businesses, and if this is something you do not love it is much less enjoyable.
Storyboarding with Diego
This past summer I worked for a start-up in the travel and tourism industry in Buenos Aires, Argentina. While I was brought on to focus on its inventory management and pricing, an area I had significant consulting experience in, the highlight of my time with the company was partnering with the CEO to storyboard and revamp his pitch deck.
Diego, the founder and CEO, is a very successful entrepreneur. He is known in the start-up scene throughout the region and sold his most recent venture to eBay. He is a visionary and very passionate about what he does. His passion is contagious. Diego’s passion is complemented by his enthusiasm and personality. For example, as “initiation” at the company, Diego insisted that I do a dance in front of the whole office the first time the company made a sale when I was there. Diego was known for often bringing in different types of Argentine pastries and taking me to local “bodegones” for lunch so that I would get to experience the real Argentina he loved so much. Diego certainly breathed energy into the day-to-day at the start-up.
Although I spent most of the summer working with the COO, I had the opportunity to closely work with Diego the last few weeks of my internship. What started as an “update to his pitch deck” turned into a multiple-week endeavor, as we virtually re-wrote the deck. While this sounds boring and maybe repetitive at first thought, the opportunities I had to truly understand what investors in Latin American care about, put some of my knowledge from my consulting days to use elsewhere, and learn about Diego were the most memorable of the entire summer.
Before this summer I had no exposure to start-ups, fundraising, and even to the business environment in Argentina. By being so involved in the creation of the pitch deck, I was able to think through and learn about what matters to investors when investing in a company, and more specifically those in Latin America. I learned lessons such as that you need to have operations in the country where a potential investor operates, not just in the broader Latin American region. Thinking through the messages in the deck helped me realize how much the strategy of the company was tied to the fundraising strategy. For Diego’s company specifically, given the economic situation in Argentina, it was very hard to get investments. So, even though Diego wanted to build the company’s brand in Argentina first, he had to begin operations in Mexico and Chile, perhaps prematurely, in order to get the attention of investors in these countries.
In consulting, “storyboarding” is a very common exercise to do before you start creating a deck. Generally you and your team will gather around a whiteboard for a few hours and talk about what the most important parts of the case you are working on are, and in what order they should be communicated to your audience. Honestly, this was an activity that I came to take for granted after spending a couple years with a consulting firm. I had no idea how difficult and ultimately valuable Diego would find storyboarding.
Before we recreated the pitch deck, Diego and I spent two days writing out the most important aspects of his company, rearranging them, rewording them, and ultimately repeating this cycle. Working with Diego so closely helped me see that, as an entrepreneur, his strength was in developing the unique ideas themselves but not as much in how to communicate them in an organized fashion. For the first time ever, I played the role of a manager, and Diego the role of a more junior team member as I guided him through this exercise, helping him craft his pitch in the most compact, articulate way possible. Diego made comments about how he had never done something like this before, how much this exercise challenged him, and that he was really glad we dedicated such a large amount of time to identifying the most important messages for his current and future investors. Hearing this type of feedback was quite rewarding; I was able to use the training I received from one of the world’s top consulting firms to benefit Diego and how he runs his budding start-up.
By spending so much time with Diego, I learned more about his perspective of “work-life balance,” and came to appreciate his approach. Diego came from humble beginnings in a region known to be one of the poorer of the country, Santiago del Estero. Although he now lives in Buenos Aires, his daughter and the rest of his family still live about ten hours away from him. Most weekends he travels back to spend time with his daughter, a trip he would make a few times per month in his car earlier in his career. Diego was clear on what mattered most to him – his daughter. Furthermore, even though he lived and breathed his company and how he could make sure it succeeded, he spent his time in a way that reflected his priorities. For example, when his daughter randomly came to town, he took off work for the day and took only the necessary calls from home. I think it is important to realize that, if done in excess, this can become problematic, but it was refreshing to be around someone who so genuinely lived out his values.