This is is a behind-the-scenes take on being a StartFast associate from Teja Kodali, a graduate student studying Technical Entrepreneurship and Management at University of Rochester.
When I was looking for internships, my friend and 2014 StartFast intern Shaival Desai told me about his great experience, one that he said he would remember for the rest of his life. Chuck and Nasir visited my university, and a short discussion and a phone interview later, I found out I was accepted into the program. Imagine my excitement! Interns from a variety of universities came down to Syracuse on April 22nd for StartFast for a Day, to watch 12 of the finalist companies compete for a slot in the accelerator program. Considering that there were over 2,000 applicants for the 2015 cohort, making it this far was a pretty monumental achievement. In the end, five teams were selected, all of which are working on some truly amazing technologies.
Everyone arrived last week, including a team (HoverStat) that drove up all the way from Austin, TX. The night before the program began, Nasir hosted a cookout where I bonded with fellow StartFasters over cheeseburgers and frisbee.
The program kicked off on Tuesday when Nasir and Chuck welcomed us and outlined the program plan over bagels and coffee. A scavenger hunt followed and our team won, largely thanks to Erin’s awesome photography skills and Will’s willingness to do pretty much anything to ensure the win.
Each team then met with Chuck and Nasir, while other teams and interns pitched themselves to each other. At the end of the day, teams and interns chose who they were most excited to work with. I learned I’d be working with three teams I was interested in. It’s been super busy since then, with the teams having multiple mentor meetings daily. I personally had a chance to sit in on a mentor meeting with SmartyPans, and it was a wonderful experience. Mentor James Turino broke down the product and the monetization strategy in a way that was entirely new to me. So far, I have been working mostly with HoverStat, helping them build website submission forms. Contributing code to real companies is an amazing opportunity since I’m relatively new to web development.
Everyone is eager to learn and extremely helpful. Eric, an associate working with Phronesis Techne on their Mogee app is honing his Android skills to help them build an app for Google Play. Will, who is working with BitReady, is trying to build a model to predict the price of bitcoin, and I was able to offer some insight on that; he in turn offered to help me with problems I encountered with Ruby on Rails.
Mark, co-founder and CTO of HoverStat, told us, “if something takes you more than 15 minutes, come to me and we can figure it out.” This goes hand-in-hand with Chuck and Nasir’s vision for the associate experience: Everyone is here to learn and everyone must aim to learn something new everyday. Already, my HTML and CSS skills have significantly improved and I also learned a bit of Ruby on Rails, apart from getting familiar with a ton of productivity and team management tools such as Jira, Asana, and Trello. Having other passionate and enthusiastic people to work with has helped create a cohesive, productive environment.
One thing I really like about the program so far is the fact that it is what you make of it. Associates have the freedom to choose who they want to work with and how they want to grow.
As Rockie Hunter, Art Director of the Electronic Gaming Federation pointed out, “It kind of feels like work, but also kind of feels like a vacation since we live in townhouses that resemble hotel rooms, our workplace is barely a few feet away, and what we’re doing doesn’t feel like work because we’re all passionate and excited about it.”
It hasn’t been all work, though. StartFast is in a beautiful setting, perfect for pick-up games of basketball, ping-pong, and going for a run. We even have weekly Forrest Yoga classes, taught by Gyata Stormon. Everyone enthusiastically took part in the first one, which proved to be a great stress-buster. Near the end of the week, we headed to Dave & Buster’s for dinner, drinks, and good old arcade games to celebrate Matylda’s birthday. What a fun way to end the week!
It has been a tiring but thoroughly enjoyable week, and I’m excited about what the coming weeks have in store. If the first week is any indication, this will be an inspiring summer.