THE 2012-2013 AMBASSADOR OF ENTREPRENEURSHIP
Wharton Entrepreneurship Advisory Board Intern Fellow
How did you find the position?
What was your motivation for working at a start-up this summer?
To build a network in the NY startup/tech community and leverage my summer experience for my own start-up idea.
What advice would you give to students interested in working at a start-up this summer?
Expect to find that perfect internship late in the year. Don’t worry and don’t sign on to an internship early under pressure.
I spent this past summer at AHAlife, an e-commerce start-up focused on helping customers discover extraordinary products from around the world. I had an incredible experience – really enjoyed the work and being surrounded by a smart and motivated team. Going in we had discussed a few project ideas around business development, logistics optimization and international marketing – combining my interests and prior relevant work experience with their business needs. I started in early-May, a couple weeks after they closed their series B fund raise which was led by Rakuten (3rd largest e-commerce company in the world). Rakuten was very keen on bringing AHAlife to Japan ASAP and I got pulled in to launch of AHAlife Japan. Project managing the Japan partnership probably ended up being 60% of my time and the big piece I led front-to-end. What was great was that given the small team, nobody outside the founders had any bandwidth to look into business development or strategic projects and hence I was pulled into lots of high-profile business development initiatives – including partnerships with an airline frequent flyer program, a 5-star Vegas hotel/casino chain, a leading payments company, a California-based fashion magazine, etc. I also worked on investor pitches through which I got to work with high-profile angel investors and VC’s, and designed and piloted a new loyalty “Ambassador” program targeted at international (pre-dominantly Asian) customers.
Things moved really fast. We signed the partnership with Rakuten and launched a storefront on their Rakuten marketplace within 3 weeks of my internship. I was made project manager for Japan and led efforts combining the merchandising, production, marketing and logistics teams – effectively the entire product life-cycle for an e-commerce company. Using live data analytics and qualitative learning’s we amended the product selection, storefront model, marketing communication, etc. on a daily basis leading to a 2nd storefront launch by week 7 of my internship. These web storefront launches were a quick way of establishing our Japan presence while we started taking steps towards establishing an on-ground and full-fledged presence there.
At the end of the summer, AHAlife made me a full-time offer to start immediately – something I did contemplate but ultimately the decision was made easier as immigration issues would not have allowed me to undertake full-time employment in the US until early 2013. I wrapped my 10-week internship on very good terms. We have remained in touch and I will be helping them out with projects through the school year.