Apart from the prospect of sunshine and blue skies, for me, summer means welcoming our new students into the London Business School ‘family’. With so many having entrepreneurial aspirations, it’s always great to see their energy for endless ideas for new ventures as well as having an equal number being excited about the idea of working with a startup in the absence of yet having had their own ‘lightbulb moment’.
And that provides the backdrop for the Summer Start-Up Experience. Matching incoming students with a shortlisted Incubator applicant for a voluntary placement from early July until term starts in mid-August. The initiative, which was launched three years ago, provides an invaluable opportunity for new students to get a feel for entrepreneurship. With interest in the programme gathering momentum on an annual basis, this year’s placement of 35 interns across 14 early-stage businesses reflects not only how many of our students join the School to pursue entrepreneurship as an alternative career path, but also how valuable this pool of talent is to our start-ups who recognise the merit of having the additional resource available to them while they are building their teams and ventures.
Of course, only time will tell how many of these placements will be ideal matches. Fingers crossed that, once again, we have plenty of happy faces on both sides of the fence in six weeks’ time to replicate the success of the programme from previous years. Perhaps a few words from Nicholas Plotnicoff MBA2020, who was among those who took a role as part of the first cohort in the 2018 programme, can explain just how well things can turn out…
In Nicholas’ words
I’ve always had an urge to try something entrepreneurial. This probably came from seeing my parents start their own business in Latin America. However, I never really got involved in their business growing up and my career since then was always working in larger firms. Pre-LBS I spent the majority of my time at Caesars Entertainment. There I worked in their analytics department, strategizing on how to get VIP’s to gamble more and in their operations team where I implemented large projects across their casinos. This experience taught me a lot on how to manage data, look for opportunities, and communicating ideas; however, I still felt I lacked the confidence to jump into an entrepreneurial venture. Coming to LBS I wanted to expose myself in areas that were outside of my comfort zone.
Why I joined Summer Start-Up Experience
Coming to LBS, I knew that I wanted to explore two areas: Entrepreneurship and Consulting. The Summer Start-Up Experience offered a safe environment to learn about entrepreneurship, work on projects that I didn’t have exposure to in my last job, and gain a mentor, from a consulting background, who I am still in touch with today.
On top of that, it also offered me a chance to explore a new field. I came from a gaming background and wanted a change of scenery, so getting the opportunity to help a Fintech first-hand on strategizing around business development in Africa was a unique experience.
What my role was
I was part of Fineazy, a fintech that was driving financial inclusion in Africa. My role was to identify customers and develop a strategy to network with individuals inside the targeted organisation. I also had the chance to create models showcasing the value Fineazy could bring to their organisation.
What I gained from the Summer Start-Up Experience
I gained so much from the Summer Start-Up Experience that I am bound to miss some details. Moreover, each Summer Start-Up Experience is likely to be beneficial in different ways although each will give you a resume booster and opportunity to explore an early start up environment. Outside of this, Fineazy gave me a lot of benefits:
- Productive Summer: I came to London with a couple of months to spare before the start of LBS. Working at Fineazy allowed me to make the most out of summer while still giving me time to explore all that London has to offer.
- Soft and Hard Skills: Monique Baars, the founder of Fineazy, was incredible. She helped me finetune my storytelling abilities in PowerPoint and helped me structure slides in a way to extract the most value. Not only that, through listening to her experiences, but it also gave me insight on how to best engage potential clients outside of the office. On the other hand, I learned about validating ideas so as not to rush into a product and being able to pivot.
- Exposure: Part of why I came to LBS was to explore new fields. The Summer Start-Up Experience allowed me to explore Fintech and Education. Once as the MBA started, I felt I knew more about other industries and could later target what I wanted.
Pointers for starting an internship with a Start-Up:
- Make your own role: Early stage start-ups are low in resources, people, and expertise. This makes it perfect to negotiate your own role. They might ask you to come up with a business development strategy, but if you really want to get involved with something else, they probably will not object.
- Networking: I was surprised at how supportive the LBS community is. Try to network through alumni to get a job in a start-up or just reach out in LinkedIn.
- Try something unfamiliar: What is most exciting about working with a start-up is the opportunity to improve and work on areas that you are unfamiliar with. I’ve gotten to work at both a PropTech and FinTech during my time at LBS, and both roles were vastly different from my pre-MBA experience. Take advantage of getting to do things that you wouldn’t normally have the opportunity to do.
- Ask yourself if you will enjoy it: There are plenty of opportunities with startups so it is important that you not only think the company is exciting but also the people you work with. If you don’t click with the founder, do you really want to spend your time working at that startup? Unlike large corporations, most of your work is going to be with a few people so it is crucial that you can develop a good relationship.
The School’s Summer Start-Up Experience was the best way to kick off my LBS journey. If you’re looking to try something entrepreneurial, there is no better time than doing it before you get to campus. Plus you get the upside of engaging with LBS alums pre-hand and getting some inside tips on how to best prepare for LBS. I whole heartily recommend anyone who might be at home during the summer wondering what to do before the MBA to take up the opportunity and join the Summer Start-Up Experience!
About the author: Jane Khedair is the Chair of the LBS Incubator programme and Director of the Institute of Innovation and Entrepreneurship, London Business School.