2016 Startup Internship Award Winner Supported by The Jeff Sutton (W’81) Entrepreneurship Internship Fund
How did I find the position?
Barn Owl’s CEO reached out to my professor, looking for students to work with over the summer and this internship position ended up being posted on my course’s Piazza page. I reached out to them and was selected for the position after a brief interview.
My internship at Barn Owl LLC in scenic Colorado Springs was definitely a memorable one. The company strives to bring remote monitoring solutions to ranches and farms. It was a great platform for me to expand my skills as a product developer and tester. My main responsibility was to develop a working prototype of a wireless tank sensor and later work towards standardizing the design for manufacture. I was also covering everything from the backend database to a web frontend dashboard for the proof of concept cycle of this company. For me, this is a dream come true. After all these years I spent studying in school, I have been given a chance to create an actual product that we will sell to customers.
What was my motivation for working at a startup this summer?
Recently, I had become really interested about the economics and business decisions that go behind a product and it’s company. Being an engineer with an undergraduate degree from India, these concepts were something that never even entered my mind. All I used to care about was my academics and formal research. Penn’s electric atmosphere surrounding entrepreneurship is what got me started on this path. Also, I binge watched every season of the TV show ‘Shark Tank’ within 2 months of finding out about it, even in the middle of my grad school workload (highly unusual for me!). By the time I heard about Barn Owl, I was completely charmed by the start-up culture. I didn’t think twice before accepting the internship offer and I never regretted it. I am glad I got a lot of exposure to making educated marketing and business decisions while in the product development stage.
Towards the end of my internship, we went out to ranches located in Wyoming and Nebraska to test our network range and also look at the actual water tanks on which our sensors will be mounted. I was really lucky to be able to see the wild west and experience the southern hospitality. As of now, Barn Owl has a working prototype of our product, which we got manufactured in China. A lot more work and testing needs to be done before we can appear in front of our customers and start selling.
What advice would I give to students interested in working at a startup this summer?
Working at a start-up is exactly something every engineering student needs to experience at least once, especially at an early stage start-up like Barn Owl. It was definitely a rewarding experience to work on every aspect of product design and testing, but things got a bit hard without a lot of supervision. I had to figure everything out, and take all the engineering decisions myself. After deciding that one of my technology choices was not optimal, I had to discard our prototype and start over again in the middle of my internship. It is a sudden transition from the school laboratory or from doing research work under a professor.
Experiences like these will hone an engineer’s skills and intuition.
Working at a pre-funded startup didn’t pay much, of course. I am delighted to have received support in this endeavor by Wharton Entrepreneurship’s Start-up Internship Award. Also, getting featured on the blog was pretty cool!