Ditch the Startup. Intern at an Accelerator.
University of Michigan ’18 | Computer Science Engineering
Working for a startup is the hot new deal. People’s impression of working at a startup tends to be an image of employees who just play ping pong, drunk code, or ride scooters in the office. While a startup environment is nothing like that, it still can be a lot of fun. There are limitless responsibilities and creativity in a startup, and interns have the unique opportunity to accelerate a startup to new heights.
This summer I am interning at Desai Accelerator in Ann Arbor, MI, where I help six companies develop their products, brands, and business models before Demo Day on August 4th. Throughout the last six weeks, I’ve realized: why work for one startup when you can work for multiple startups at an accelerator? If you’re interested in entering the startup community in college without starting your own company, here are 5 reasons why you should work at an accelerator:
1. Gain New Perspectives
Every startup has different philosophies and insights, values and goals. If you work under one startup, you only get to view certain philosophies and insights from that one company’s perspective. By working for multiple startups, you can see how different companies handle different issues, like developing product, handling customers, raising money, or developing a brand. At Desai, we get to see how Ash & Erie handles customer service. How Gaudium approaches product development with their game. How Sultant executes customer discovery. How MySwimPro handles outreach in the global swimming community. With so many different perspectives, you have the opportunity to apply best approaches from each company to a future startup.
2. It’s Always Engaging
At an accelerator, no two days are the same. One day we’re testing Armor Blitz for Gaudium. Another day we’re running around Ann Arbor talking to small businesses for Sultant. One time we even spent an entire week thinking of a new name for Clash Audio (now JamHawk). Multiple companies keep things interesting with different news and different milestones.
No two roles are the same, either. As a Desai intern, I have the luxury of tapping in different areas with different companies, like developing a web application for MySwimPro, designing wireframes for Roomations’ interior design site, and heading customer service for Ash & Erie (formerly Ash & Anvil). While it would be nice to explore different roles under the same brand, an intern at an accelerator gets to pick and choose which projects seem the most interesting for different companies.
3. The Resources
Startup accelerators offer insane amounts of resources for their companies, like service credits through the Global Accelerator Network (GAN), mentorship sessions, workshops, investment opportunities, and lots of publicity. As an intern, I also get to tap into some of these resources by getting free advice during workshops, developing connections with mentors, using software services provided by GAN.
4. Applying Advice
As a student with no startup, it’s difficult to apply key points from class, books, and TED talks to an actual company. But at an accelerator, you can actually apply all of the insights that you gain from workshops, reading, and advisors to a real company. For example, while I was reading Nir Eyal’s book Hooked, I was able to understand his insights through the lens of MySwimPro and make recommendations to the company.
5. Make an Impact
An intern at a startup has the opportunity to make a significant difference in how the company develops. But at an accelerator, you have the opportunity to grow multiple companies. You get to apply your experiences, insights, and knowledge to more people and improve everyone’s bottom line. Think of it this way: if you have the ability to feed a large group of people, would you rather feed one person, or the entire group?
Obviously there are also benefits to interning at a single startup, like owning more projects for that company and narrowing your focus on one brand. Regardless of the setting, interning in the startup community is invaluable as a student. You get to explore many different areas: finance, design, software development, marketing. Your responsibilities extend beyond developing a single feature on a single product, and you get to truly own a part of the company. You’ll grow as a student, a leader, and as an individual.
So as you start looking for internship opportunities for next summer, consider interning at a startup accelerator! There are plenty of great places near the University of Michigan, including Ann Arbor SPARK, TechStars in Detroit, and Desai Accelerator (my home turf). Regardless of where you go, I’m sure you’ll find the experience amazing!
Stay tuned for more guest posts written by ELP students sharing their experiences working in the entrepreneurship community in Michigan, and around the country!