Interns To The Rescue At Startups!

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How and why startups should use this valuable resource. By Florence Lowe (Founder & CEO, SQBlueSky)

Conventional wisdom would say that we don’t have the time to train and manage a bunch of young ‘uns - we are trying to start and build a company!

Interns can make a HUGE difference to any startup. Here at SQBlueSky, a fledgling fin-tech startup based in Dallas, TX, we have a bunch of interns spending their summer with us. They have helped us establish our social media presence, develop content, do financial modeling and valuation and create new marketing campaigns – nothing scares them.

Additionally, they contribute with their youth and excitement as only university students can.

Honestly - It has been a blast.

We quietly launched our first product in May of this year and within the first month, we hit gold landing our first client, a local hedge fund in Dallas. We knew it was just the start of our long journey, and our first client knew – knows – we are a startup and sees its role as not just using our tool but also giving us feedback on the product to help us evolve it. So while we had a great start, we are still running a marathon.

This is where having a few smart, intelligent, quick learners on board to help out is worth every iota of time you spend with them.

What they bring to the table:

  • The ability to work with no budget. Who knows more about how to be resourceful with little or no funding than students? David Li, an undergraduate at NYU, got us a great deal on a rechargeable battery just by knowing where to look for cheap goods. (Don’t underestimate the power of buying cheap as a startup!)
  • An affinity for social media. Students live and socialize online. They all know how to “Like”, “Follow”, become “LinkedIn” and are serial “Tweeters”. It is an easy extension for them to create and manage a social media presence for a company.
  • The curiosity bug. Interns are great at internet research. We are in the process of putting together an instructional video and between David, Yingxia Xie, an MS Finance student at UT Dallas, and Satvika Ananthanarayan, an undergraduate at UT Austin, they have been able to come up with a list of open source editing software, recommendations for music, and licensing costs in less than one hour.
  • Inspiration. Satvika came up with the idea of having campus ambassadors, which makes a lot of sense for us because we plan to offer our tool to students for free and need advocates on the ground.
  • Hip. Just admit it: students ALWAYS know more about what is going on than you do, including the best restaurants, music and movies – Yingxia, who is of Chinese origin, loves Hindi movies and recommended “Three Idiots”, which I enjoyed a lot!

What they get:

  • Meaningful work experience. This will help with getting a “real” job when they graduate.
  • Startup work experience. This is where you work in a small team and your work will be directly and immediately impactful to the company.

Finding the right person for the internship is key, though. The right person wants to work for a startup, has done some research about what startups are all about, likes ambiguity, can think for themselves, and finally, is really, really intelligent.

Good luck with your interns and reaping the immediate benefits. Remember a small startup can deal with a learning curve, but a startup will die without passion, sweat equity and a balance of book and street smarts!

Editor's note: Got a question for our guest blogger? Leave a message in the comments below. About the guest blogger: Florence Lowe is Founder and CEO of SQBlueSky, (pronounced "skwer-blü-sk"), a financial research data and software company bringing blue sky thinking and products to the financial information industry. Previously, Florence was CFO at iSIGHT Partners. In a prior life, she was a software engineer at UBS Warburg and IBM. Florence lives in Dallas, Texas with her husband and 3 year old son. She blogs. Follow her on Twitter at @florencelowe.