Yonathan Woldemariam ENG’19/W’19 interned at Acme in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia

2016 Startup Internship Award Winner Supported by The Jeff Sutton (W’81) Entrepreneurship Internship Fund

My ultimate goal is to create an impactful technology business based in Ethiopia. To achieve this, I have dedicated my academic and career pursuits to cultivating my skills as an entrepreneur and a software engineer. As a dual degree Computer Science and Entrepreneurship student, I take courses that allow me to discover and develop the technical and entrepreneurial skills I need to conceive and implement bigger, bolder ideas.

Although these experiences during my first year of school have allowed me to pursue my interests in technology businesses, they have also exposed me to the defining qualities of successful engineers and entrepreneurs. I have realized that it is imperative to have the ability to implement technical solutions, the commitment to create social development, and the leadership to create sustainable businesses. That is why I decided to intern at Acme, an early stage Ethiopian engineering firm that sells equipment in the fields of Water Supply, Energy, and Agriculture. As a product development intern at Acme, I gained and developed crucial practical skills like teamwork, design, software development, marketing and sales.

My internship was divided into four stages: User research, design, development and online marketing. For the first few weeks, I conducted customer interviews to gather feedback that would help me create designs. After gathering feedback and iterating on the designs I start coding the site. Specifically, I was building a site that would function as a product catalogue for Acme’s clients. This was significantly different from what I was going to do because I thought I was going to build an ecommerce website. But as a result of my initial research I discovered that a significant portion of Acme’s revenue came from enterprise sales which usually had large orders. So it was more important for Acme to have a website that would serve as an initial research point instead of a point of sale. I also built a simple chat interface so potential clients can easily contact the sales team. Following the completion of the site, I focused on creating a marketing strategy for the website launch on January 2017. I was initially thinking of simple SEO but I realized that most of Acme’s clients came through referrals. Moreover, most of Acme’s clients had already provided Acme with their business cards. So I built an internal tool that the sales team can use to input the numbers from the business cards and send text messages with targeted offers.

By developing an ecommerce solution for Acme, I practiced crucial technical and entrepreneurial skills like design, software engineering and marketing that will empower me to succeed as a tech entrepreneur. More importantly, I had the opportunity to directly work and learn from the founder of an early stage Ethiopian tech startup.