Robert Do W’10 interned at DropCards in Philadephia, PA

2009-2010 Wharton Entrepreneurship Advisory Board Intern Fellow

When I saw that the job description for DropCard required that you have brass balls, be allergic to BS, and have experience as a dirty rascal, I had a pretty good sense that I would be working with some very interesting people. I had seen Tal Raviv, the founder of DropCard, give a talk about entrepreneurship at the Weiss Tech House. The insights he picked up through his short time building his company truly impressed me. He had already embraced the practice of applying the scientific method of testing and iterating to the process of product development. Having interned at various large software companies in the past, I had seen many product managers who had not yet understood the importance of experimentation. The fact that Tal not only understood it, but was a true champion of it really resonated with me. He also spoke of the importance of humility, persistence, and leadership. I knew from that moment that I could learn a lot from joining his team.

A startup environment is not like a typical corporate job. In a startup, there are no rules, procedures, policies, or any other type of red tape BS that plagues large organizations. Everyone does what he needs to do to get things done. There is no time to sit in the office hypothesizing a plan. You just have got to hit the streets and talk to real, living people and hear what they have to say. In analyzing all the findings I gathered, I really developed a keen ear for hearing out users’ needs. Being able to talk to hundreds of people to get their feedback and potentially a sale is a daunting, but invaluable skill. There is no way to learn it besides just throwing yourself out there to the sharks. In putting myself in these situations, I was learning something new everyday whether it was about customer reactions or how to position and pitch the product. An important skill was being able to work with nothing. We had no fancy videos, brochures, or large budgets. All we had were customer insights we picked up along the way. Being scrappy and working with the little you’ve got is truly an art. I even got a large real estate company to sign on to participate in product trials with its salespeople. Many of the skills I learned this summer are not taught in any classroom. You’ve just got to jump right in, fail really quickly, adjust your strategy, rinse and repeat.

Although in a startup everyone is insanely busy, we work extremely close with each other. Emails pile up everyday on what cool interesting insights everyone has found. We all work together collaboratively. Anyone can throw out an idea and someone will chime in and build upon it. We do not believe in hierarchy. Everyone is approachable and is willing to help you. I love the transparency and trust that permeates the team. I got to see all parts of the business and product, even the most secret areas. This transparency is possible because of the trust we have with each other. When I had ideas I wanted to take on, my team just said, “go ahead”. They placed a lot of weight on the importance of doing something you are passionate about. It is hard to find such an environment where every single person involved is truly passionate and is dedicated to the mission.

If you have ever considered the thought of working at a startup, I would highly recommend it. A summer experience is a great way to get a taste to see if it is right for you or not. Many startups also look to take on part time interns during the school year. You will definitely learn a lot more than you expect and see many parts of a business you would never get to see otherwise.