Zachary Dennett (WG’13) Venmo in Philadelphia, PA Prequalified Intern Fellow

THE 2012-2013 AMBASSADOR OF ENTREPRENEURSHIP

Wharton Entrepreneurship Advisory Board Intern Fellow

How did I find the position?

 

I met one of the co-­-founders of Venmo at the Wharton BizTechconference during the winter. I went

up to NYC a month later to meet with him and convinced him to let mestart working part time during the year, which led to my summerinternship.

 

What was my motivation for working at a startup-­-up this summer? 

 

After five years of consulting before business school, I wanted to experiencerunning a business rather than telling others how to do so. A small start-­-up provided me with a great amount of responsibility.

 

What advice would I give to students interested in working at a start-­-upthis summer?


Be aggressive. When looking for the job, network and actively follow up. Once you get the job, be active in taking on tasks and roles.

 

Overview of the summer:

 

Finding the job:  My “summer” started in December at the Wharton BizTechconference. One of the Venmo co-­-founders, Iqram Magdon-­-Ismail, spoke on a panel about mobile payments. After the talk, I introduced myself andgot his contact information.

 

In January, I managed to arrange a lunch meeting in New York with Iqram and the COO. During lunch, it quickly become clear that Venmo had little appetite for a general MBA type intern. They already had someone who didthe finances and they had no need for a new high level strategy. The COOspelled this out fairly explicitly as he asked me what exactly I thought I coulddo for Venmo.

 

Thankfully, I had a good answer. I proposed that I would help them withtheir customer analytics. Based on what I had learned during theconversation at lunch, I was able to say that I did not think Venmo had goodinsights into who were the customers and how they behaved. After I confirmed I had done a lot of large data analytics in my previous job andknew SQL, they suggested I start that afternoon. We went back to the office and I dove right in.

 

Role 1: For my first few months at Venmo, I worked with historical data tounderstand the customer’s usage patterns and revealed preferences. I did a lot of segmentation work. I also made predictions about which of thecustomers would leave Venmo when we stopped letting users fundtransactions from a credit card.

 

Probably the most valuable data analysis I did revolved aroundunderstanding what caused those trying the service for the first time to stayon as long time active users. I looked at many dimensions such as friendnetwork, demographics, payment funding source, type of payment, etc.

 

Role 2: My data analysis suggested a few different campaigns to increasethe number of active users. Since I had done the analysis, I was the obviousperson to run the promotional activity. Thus, I moved from a largely analyticrole into more of a marketing role. I sent out a series of personalized andtargeted emails to lapsed users. With strict A/B/Control type testing, wequickly learned what worked and managed some pretty good successes.

 

Role 3: As I spent more time around the business, I started to build up a good reputation. While still working on the email campaigns, I began tohelp out with some of the high level product strategy and fundraisingefforts. By the end of my internship, I joined for some of the VC pitchesand drove one of the key decisions about how the Venmo product wouldwork.

 

Looking back, my role progression throughout the internship seems verylogical. I started by offering Venmo the very specific and technical skill ofcustomer analytics. From there, I built trust and expanded my scope.

 

Culture: I really enjoyed working at Venmo. Partially I liked the work and the product. But, the company culture contributed greatly. Venmo did a fewthings very well. First, there was a general attitude of getting things doneefficiently. For example, if an engineer wanted to make a product tweak, hewould basically code up the change and show it to others rather than spenda lot of time beforehand discussing with committees whether the changeshould be made.

 

Second, while we worked hard long hours, Venmo still managed a greatwork life balance where it mattered. Most of the company worked outfrequently. So, rather than scheduling a 30 minute meeting to discusssome topic, people would sometimes schedule 4 mile running meetings.Now that is efficient multi-­-tasking!

 

Finally, I connected well with the people at Venmo. Everyone was smart anddriven. And, they were fun to hang out with afternoon.

 

Overall, I had a really great experience at Venmo.