Mark Mitchell WG’10 interned at DocASAP in Philadelphia, PA

2009-2010 Wharton Entrepreneurship Advisory Board Intern Fellowship recipient

How did you find the position?

The position was posted on the MBA Job Board.

What was your motivation for working at a start-up this summer?

I have always been interested in entrepreneurism and wanted to experience, first hand, the process of building a company.

What advice would you give to students interested in working at a start-up this summer?

Pick the smallest company that you can that you think will succeed. The smaller the company, the more responsibility you can earn. Though it is hard to figure out what companies will succeed, a good proxy is to look at what the founders have accomplished in the past. Also, looking for companies that just received first round funding is a good idea. They will be small and young, yet the VC thinks that they are promising.

About the Summer Experience

The Realization I came to Wharton thinking that I wanted to be a trader for a big bank, but during recruiting I came to realize that I had no zeal for the position. I realized that if I worked for a traditional MBA internship source, I would most likely spend my summer making one PowerPoint slide or watching someone else work from over their shoulder. I went through a long self-discovery process and concluded that I have always been interested in creating my own company. Thinking what most Wharton students do (that a novel idea is necessary if you want to be an entrepreneur), I decided that my best route to entrepreneurism was to join somebody else’s start-up.

The Selection Startup is a very broad term. It is possible to find gainful employment at a startup with one employee or a startup that has 1000 employees, millions in funding, and is on the verge of IPO. I went for the former, thinking that the fewer employees, the more impact I could have during the summer. I searched through VC portfolio companies and job boards, and I participated in WEP programs created to facilitate pitching to startups. I learned that most startups that are spending money to hire people are looking for very specific skills, and often they already have robust management teams. Lacking any marketable tech or financial skills, I concluded that I would be the most help for a team that was still building its management structure and could use any form of generalist assistance. One of the companies I found was DocAsap, a website that provides patients a portal for online appointment booking with local doctors and dentists. It was founded by two WG’ 09 students and was a Wharton Business Plan Competition finalist for 2009. I was attracted to DocAsap because they intended to involve me in all aspects of the company. I was not let down. During my summer I learned how to cold call, sell door-to-door, present to potential corporate partners, create marketing campaigns, manage business communication, and utilize social media to build product demand. Having never sold before, the act of learning the ropes, from scratch, was invaluable, and it was worth more to me that any corporate internship salary. While I was helping the company, DocAsap launched, and grew to 20 medical professionals with multiple appointment bookings each week. It was exciting to see the progression from testing a product in beta stage, to hearing the praise from happy customers who never expected our business to provide as much value as it did. There were highs, like making large and unexpected sales, and lows, like being escorted from office buildings by security guards for soliciting, and I wouldn’t give up my experience for any traditional internship.

Afterthoughts I realized, during my summer, that the MBA experience isn’t necessarily just about completing classes and getting a good internship and then job. It is about true, transformational, learning. If you are interested in entrepreneurship, why be confine yourself to a two month internship? Your time at Wharton is unburdened by responsibility. Find a company that needs help and help them, even if it means sacrificing your MGEC exam. Better yet, find a group of friends you trust and make your own company. The two founders of DocAsap taught me this lesson. For the last 6 months of their MBA, they worked till 3AM coding the product and skipped classes to make sales calls. They also taught me that building a company is about making things happen. I realized, during my summer, that had I worked for a large company, most of my time would have been spent making sure that I learned how to “do things the right way.” At a start-up, there is no right way. Things just need to get done. Now that recruiting season is back in full swing, I find myself recruiting for traditional jobs. But I know, without a doubt, that I will someday own my own company. Having been part of the action once, I know I will not be one of those that says ‘someday’ but never makes it happen.