2016 Startup Internship Award Winner Supported by the Jeff Sutton (W’81) Entrepreneurship Internship Fund
How did you find the position?
I found the position through the MBA Career Management office, the company posted a job listing on CareerPath.
What was your motivation for working at a startup this summer?
Over the course of my first year, I brainstormed and researched many sectors and areas to potentially start my own company. One area in particular I had focused on was insurance technology, a space that was rapidly gaining exposure. Bungalow, the company where I interned, was founded 2 years ago by a pair of Wharton MBA students and sells renters insurance online. It seemed like a great opportunity to gain first-hand knowledge of the insurance technology space and also learn from two people who did exactly what I hope to do: start a business in business school.
What advice would you give to students interested in working for a startup this summer?
My first piece of advice for students looking to intern at a startup for the summer is to do a gut check and make sure that is what they want to do. Only a handful of startups recruit on-campus and many do not start thinking about summer hires until much later in the school year (many seem to start around March). Doing startup recruiting requires resolve to stay the course and not be distracted by the glamour and free meals banks and consulting firms will throw at you or the name recognition and tightly planned sell package itineraries the large established technology firms provide.
Startup recruiting also requires a higher level of elbow grease on the part of the students. With on campus recruiting, the companies literally come to you. Many startup internship search processes involve cold emails, leveraging the Wharton and your personal networks, and convincing a company that they should hire an MBA intern in the first place – much less that they should hire you specifically. It can be discouraging from time to time to send tens (even hundreds) of emails and get nary a response. Other points of doubt occur when your friends with internships lined up start making summer plans and you barely have interviews lined up. In these nadirs and dark moments, it is good to try and keep your eyes on the big picture and remember why you are choosing the path less traveled. Also, I found it very useful to talk to others who are also pursuing the startup recruiting path. I found it invaluable to have classmates going through the same motions I was, both for advice and also as someone to commiserate with to get you through the process.
Finally, think carefully about the kind of role and the type of startup you ideally would like to join. There are many parameters to consider: stage, level of funding, number of employees, industry, location. My initial prototypical startup to intern at over the summer was one in the expansion stage with somewhere from 25-100 employees. However, what I found out was that startups at this stage were the least likely to hire an MBA intern for either one of two scenarios. One is that the startup recognizes the value of an MBA and can properly leverage a summer intern. However, after 10 weeks that MBA student has to go back to school and now the startup has yet another hiring slot to fill to replace the lost productivity of that intern. Startups at this stage are so focused on hitting growth targets and finding ways to ramp up that an intern adding value for 10 weeks can reveal new headaches for the organization with no one left to resolve them.
Alternatively, if a startup does not know how to properly utilize an MBA intern, the student may get stuck with projects that lack a business purpose and the company is stuck with a burden they feel to babysit their summers. For this reason, I found from my internship search that the companies most responsive to MBA intern help are very early stage startups who could use an extra set of hands anywhere (and everywhere) or more mature, later stage startups with hundreds of employees and a more formal internship structure that is designed to deliver a good experience with the right mix of mentorship, responsibility and managerial attention.