The Lassonde Entrepreneurship Institute and Lassonde Studios are the places to be for new experiences and opportunities at the University of Utah. During summer 2018, Lassonde introduced student-run, student-focused internships in three categories: Founders, Program Managers and Startup Team interns. All three of the summer internship programs lasted 10 weeks, and vary on time commitments, but each promises unique development of skill sets and entrepreneurial and business knowledge. We caught up with a few of the interns to learn about their experience.
Gene Peterson, Lassonde Founder Intern
Gene Peterson is an MBA student at the U, and was a Founder Intern at Lassonde this summer. Founder internships are for students looking to establish or grow their companies, who are given resources and support to complete four distinct deliverables: a business model, company formation, product development and marketing and sales. After earning a master’s in computer science and working full time, Peterson decided to move back to Utah, quit his job and pursue his real passion: his video game startup, Bitrageous.
“This internship was exactly what I was looking for,” Peterson said. “When I first came to Lassonde, what I really wanted was an accelerator or incubator-type program where I could get feedback or ideas on how to build and better my company, and that’s what this program has really been for me.” Peterson put in over 40 hours a week on his startup while studying for his MBA full time, doing everything from market research to game development to fulfill the required deliverables. Since interning, Peterson says his biggest accomplishment has been getting his company’s video game play-tested: “I’ve started putting my game in front of people since the program started. I had been just showing short video clips of it prior to that, but now it’s in people’s hands and they can play it, which is amazing. Lassonde gave me the chance to do that.”
Peterson is leaving his summer internship not only with tangible achievements and success, but a brand-new network. “I got to know many more entrepreneurs and people like me, and that’s been awesome,” he said. It’s a very important thing to have connections with people who are like-minded with similar goals.”
Eduarda Rocha, Lassonde Program Manager Intern
Eduarda Rocha is a rising senior in economics at the U, and spent summer 2018 as a Program Manager Intern. Rocha joined the Program Manager internship cohort looking for experience in running events. Before starting, she assumed it would be like a stereotypical college internship: “Usually internships with college students is sending us to go get coffee or food or something,” she said. “With this, I was the director of a program for the summer, and that’s that. I had to cancel [some events], which was nerve-racking, and I had to come to Lassonde Studios to set up events and ask questions when there was a lull in conversation. There was so much responsibility, but in a good way. It helped me grow. Lassonde trusted me enough to run a program for a summer even though I’m just a college student. It was more than an internship.”
Rocha was the manager for Hours with Experts, a program which gives entrepreneurs face time within experts in fields from accounting to patent law, to help startups achieve their milestones. She put in about ten hours a week organizing and managing the events: the panels were held weekly, and Rocha was solely in charge of booking the experts, organizing the events and attracting attendees. Rocha left the internship with new management skills, and will be taking over the position again in the upcoming academic year.
“At first, I was really overwhelmed, but I got to meet a lot of experts and make great connections,” she said. “I learned how to write emails nicely, how to handle situations, like an expert got a parking ticket when they were here. I had a lot of freedom in my position. It was not at all what I expected, but I’m grateful for that.”
Finn Melanson, Lassonde Startup Team Intern
Finn Melanson is an MBA student at the U and worked as a Startup Team Intern during summer 2018. Before the summer internships officially kicked off, Startup Team and Founder interns met together at the Studios, where Founders pitched their startup ideas. Startup Team Interns then decided which startups resonated with them the most, and chose the corresponding Founder to work with throughout the 10-week program. Melanson stumbled onto the summer internship program during his MBA orientation: “I had no background whatsoever in entrepreneurship, but I was interested in approaching things outside my comfort zone,” he said. “I came into the internship knowing that I had a lot to learn. As a consequence, I became really passionate about entrepreneurship over the course of the summer.”
Melanson found a startup that he related to and got right to work. He knew that being involved in a startup would take huge chunks of time out of his week, over 40 hours, but what he didn’t expect was the outpouring of resources from Lassonde: “The one thing I thought that I knew about entrepreneurship was that it was the wild, wild west of business, like you’re in it on your own. What I didn’t realize was how supportive Lassonde was, and how well the workshops and the Hours with Experts meshed with the deliverables. When we had questions about how to set up a financial model or how to incorporate, the people that were recruited to give presentations did a great job speaking directly to those metrics.”
With his prior skill set in marketing, much of Melanson’s internship was built around market research for the startup. Along with the startup’s founder, Melanson had the opportunity to see what running a company was really like: “It was motivating to be handed a lot of responsibility in the startup. I had the opportunity to drive our market research and apply insights to the startup’s long-term strategic goals. While this research led to the decision to suspend work on the startup, the Founder and I both developed a universal skill set that will make us invaluable on future teams.”
Even though the startup didn’t take off, Melanson still left the program with valuable experience and new expertise. “My concentration in the MBA program is in marketing, so having the opportunity to do market research and determine our target persona was incredibly helpful. Learning how to pitch to a VC audience and present to them to get funding was also new for me. But again, we spent the vast majority of our time determining if there was even a market for this idea. I think that to find out relatively early on that your business isn’t relatively sustainable is just as much of a win as being the next Blyncsy or other big company to come out of the university. The beauty of Lassonde is the safety net that you have to be an entrepreneur, and to try five or six times if need be. It’s an impressively collaborative and uplifting environment.”
Learn more about summer internship opportunities at lassonde.utah.edu/summer.