Last week we had the pleasure of spending a day with 22 students from the Lakeside school, who joined the 10 Techstars teams for a micro internship day. Each company had 2-3 students help them solve real business tasks. This is our 3rd year running the Micro internship and it continues to be a great success. The students get an insight to being an entrepreneur and get hands on experience with coding, market research and marketing, in return the companies receive unique insights and help from the students. One of the students, Mary Thomas, wrote a great blog post about her day working with Crowsnest.
I nodded my head wisely, hoping that my façade of understanding was convincing, as the founders of Crowsnest, the startup that I was to work with for the day, explained their product. Between the use of acronyms like API (which I wouldn’t have recognized even if they had spelled it out) and talking about plugins, which I at least gathered they didn’t mean the electrical socket kind, I was utterly lost. And then— they asked me what my skills and interests are. I balked, only needing a quick assessment of the situation to realize my normal answer to that question (that I play viola) was probably not what they were looking for. Instead I responded with a confident and articulate “Uhhh…” But my initial trepidation soon subsided when the founders were eager to answer my questions, and throughout the day continued to happily pitch in to explain what they were doing. To my relief, the day was not filled with computer coding. In fact one of the founders shared with me that, to his dismay, he had barely done any coding since they began the project. Indeed, I saw first-hand that there is much more to a software startup than just creating the product. Marketing research took up most of our day, researching hardware companies and startups that could possibly use the software that they were making and then conducting interviews to see what issues those companies were facing and whether or not Crowsnest’s product is something there is a widespread need for. After lunch, I joined the founders of all of the startups in watching a fascinating and entertaining presentation by Rand Fishkin, The Hard Truths of Entrepreneurship, in which he shared valuable insight that he had learned from going through what all of the startups at Techstars are going through. His advice addressed some of the things that people often forget about human nature and working with people. Ideas which are important in all areas of life, but he was able to testify to their specific importance when starting a company. All day I saw how much more there is to a startup than just creating a product. Huge amounts of time and effort have to be put in to researching the needs, expectations, and abilities, of both the people consuming, and producing the product. Instead of just a factory of code monkeys, the software startups of TechStars are businesses by people, for people, just like any other.
I am always impressed by these kids, and it's great they get exposed to entrepreneurship at an early age. Too many students graduate from college not realizing entrepreneurship is a career path. My hope is partnerships like this can help inspire more young people to start their own companies and help make the world a better place.
Techstars Seattle Demo Day, Nov 6th, from 2pm-6.30pm at Showbox SoDo.
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Launch Party Nov 6th, from 6:30-11:00pm at Showbox SoDo - Buy your ticket now