500 Demo Day, from an Intern’s perspective
Guest post from Aitran Doan, Choate ’12.
My name is Aitran and I’ve spent my freshmen fall interning with TrustCloud. I learned about TrustCloud as an intern at Grand Central Tech where I sat in on some of the business meetings. TrustCloud intrigues me because it presents a tangible way of quantifying trust, something so intangible. I wanted to follow the journey of this product and see how well it can solve the trust and safety problems we face in the online market.
A fellow Choate Alum agreed to show me the behind-the-scenes of TrustCloud. So in early September, I visited the 500 Startups office in San Francisco. Seeing so many people working together in such a collaborative atmosphere excited me. I saw the experiential learning eseence of the start-up culture: how much user feedback drives the product design process, how many times a team must fail to improve, and how much commitment determines sucess. I love this culture of embracing failure, of hands-on learning, of teamwork, and of grit—for me, this is everything that education should be.
A few weeks later, I gathered with the TrustCloud team on October 21st for 500 Startups’ Demo Day. All the companies pitched in front of an auditorium of potential investors. The preparation and buildup was incredible. I had the easy task of mapping investors on Salesforce while the rest TrustCloud team focused on refining the pitch, the product, and the setup of the booth. As a fellow classmate and I watched the presenters give their pitches, we felt the reality each speaker was up against: 75% of startups fail. How they perform in those two minutes can potentially make or break their companies. It was such a surreal feeling.
As I talked to investors and collected their cards after Trustcloud’s presentation, the reality of the situation lingered in the back of my head. It dawned on me how much work and grit the entire process takes, from launching a product to finding investors to making a clean exit. I wondered how many of the investors who approach the booths would actually invest in the companies. Pessimistic thoughts perhaps, but this reality is also what makes the start-up world so exciting. This ambiguity demands persistent companies who are willing to step out of their comfort zone to embrace innovation. It is what makes being in an incubator exhilarating—the constant “yes” to new ideas and perspectives.
This internship with Trustcloud has given me insight to the type of learning and working environment that will allow me to thrive. Knowing this information, especially as a freshman, is valuable—when I look at the pages upon pages of academic opportunities available at Stanford, I know which ones I want to pursue. In my academic future, I want to incorporate design thinking into the environmental/social entrepreneurship sector to create impactful, innovative solutions. Lastly, I want to use this opportunity to thank Start-Up Choate for coordinating both internships I’ve had this past year and express my gratitude for the Start-Up Choate community. It is incredible that just by clicking the “Join Group” button five months ago on LinkedIn, I have opened myself to amazing hands-on learning opportunities as well as caring mentors.
~~Kudos Aitran. And here’s to more like you! MFS