2013-2014 Neff Entrepreneurial Intern Fellow
How did you find the position?
Cold Calling via Linkedin.
What was your motivation for working at a start-up this summer?
I had always wanted to launch my own business and wanted to work at a startup to evaluate the environment, some of the challenges and my fit.
What advice would you give to students interested in working at a start-up this summer?
Reach out to alumni, don´t hesitate to cold call. Especially for non-US opportunities most of your search would be self-directed.
This summer I interned with a financial services startup in London called www.Borro.com. Prior to Wharton I was working as a trader at an investment bank, but had always dreamed of creating my own company someday. So for my summer internship I really wanted to work at a startup – to introspect and experiment, to better understand the startup work culture and how I could fit in. My challenges in finding an internship included not having any prior startup experience, lack of knowledge/clarity on the kind of startup I wanted to work for and the location (I wanted to be in London close to my family).
Determined but not very optimistic, I started the search by compiling a list of all startups in London that looked interesting. I explored different industries, browsed through magazine articles, blogs, startup awards etc. and came up with a not very scientific shortlist. Then, I started reaching out to Wharton alumni, professors, fellow students – basically anyone who might have any connection to my chosen companies. I also upgraded my Linkedin account to premier to message some of the founders directly where I couldn’t find a direct connection. To my surprise many founders/CEOs actually replied! After the first few conversations, to leverage my background, I decided to pitch myself as a finance guru, someone who could help startups with analysis, financing, funding etc. And soon after, I was lucky enough to get an offer from
Borro. Basically, Borro had recently opened an office in New York and I got a chance to meet the founder ‘Paul Atkien’ face to face. My first conversation with him turned out great and I think I successfully convinced him that I could help his growing business with strategic analysis, market sizing etc. Having got the Neff fellowship meant that I could also negotiate on the salary, which was wonderful!
At Borro my first week was very chaotic. Both the founder and CFO, were out of office which basically meant I was on my own. With no direction and nothing major to do, I ended utilizing that time to independently look at Borro’s financial statements, board packs etc. I researched the space they were operating in and came with some ideas to help them improve/drive revenues and costs. In hindsight this work from the first week, was what set the tone for an incredible internship. Paul was extremely excited about some of my ideas and also appreciated the fact that I was a self-starter, someone who could work without much hand holding.
Having established credibility with the team, I worked on and delivered some big projects for Borro, including coming up with a complex yet flexible model to calculate client profitability per cohort. For the most part I was given absolute freedom and resources to work on what I liked. I felt like I was part of their team and had something to contribute and deliver. I was able to voice my opinions and concerns, and in fact even remember a day when I had a big blow out with the founder and CFO (when I questioned some of their decisions and expectations). Like a family, we all talked and smoothed the concerns the next day. It was a great experience, also because I was part of a company transitioning from an early stage venture to a growth venture. Borro had raised a lot of money the previous year and were in the process of downsizing their London office and hiring more experienced professionals in the US. To say the least, emotions were high in the office during my time at Borro, and it was a valuable opportunity to see how the founder and the company handled the human element and this transition.
In summary, I feel my summer experience at Borro couldn’t have been better. I learnt so many things in my short time with them. It had given me so much confidence in my own abilities. I feel that now I have experience to prove that I can work well in an ambiguous environment, take charge and deliver. I also understand that I myself really enjoy working in a growth setup where I could own the product and implement. In fact, I am so inspired that I have decided to take the plunge and work on my own startup this year!
From a community perspective, I think I helped change Paul’s perception of what MBAs could bring to the table for startups. He had openly told me that he was skeptical of MBAs and would normally never hire them. But, after my internship he hired a Wharton 2013 graduate full time to join the New York office. Even in this small way, I feel extremely proud to have carried the Wharton name further and helped Borro as well.