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Internships Aplenty at Inaugural Startup Expo

Tuesday, Mar. 8, 2011

One evening late last month, more than 250 students, some decked out in suits and bearing resumes, poured into Benson’s Mission Room, trying to land an internship. But unlike most internship fairs featuring giant companies, these students were greeted by about 50 vibrant, promising startups -- some of them so new their employee e-mail addresses feature first names only. 

The Feb. 22 event was SCU’s first Startup Expo internship fair, a collaboration between the student club Santa Clara Entrepreneurship Organization (SCEO), the business school’s Center for Innovation and Entrepreneurship and the University’s career center.

The startups that attended operate in a wide array of business lines, including Internet coupons, online wine reviews, lightweight solar panels, or retail intelligence gathering. They were all eager to land interns to help with everything from recruiting customers, creating computer code, beta testing products or apps, updating websites or creating web content.

Baldemar Fuentes of Roll Call, an iPhone app company that lets users keep track of their social life and arrange impromptu gatherings, said he was looking for interns to market the service to others their age, and to provide feedback on the features of the app.

So why might a student be interested?

“We’re fun by definition,” said Fuentes. Oh, and interns get a free iPhone.

Some companies don’t have official office space yet. Still others have received funding and are eager to expand. All exuded the unmistakable, hyperkinetic energy of startups.

“We’re a fun awesome startup in downtown San Francisco,” said Lisa Zachary from Expensify, a company that handles expense accounts for small businesses using, -- naturally -- a phone app. Expensify was at the expo to hire full-time coders and other employees. “We’re 9 employees now, but we need to be 20,” said Zachary’s colleague, Zhenya Grinshteyn. 

The conversations buzzing around the room centered on things like venture-capital funding, networking, social media marketing – and aspirations and opportunities.

“Silicon Valley has a lot of startups, but you don’t get to see them a lot,” said Rico Chow, a junior finance major. “I just want to learn about companies in general, and startups always have interesting stories.”

Brent Harrison of Organic Wine Review said his site, which features regular people reviewing wines in short, irreverent videos, wants interns to develop more content get them more involved in social media. “We want to take the site to the next level,” said Harrison, an experienced marketer who has worked with numerous tech companies including Apple.

Harrison’s intern will not be paid, he said, but if they are over 21 they can count on plenty of wine samples and team meetings at Harrison’s wife’s wine bar in Los Gatos.

While SCEO hasn’t yet gotten a final tally of how many internships were secured out of the fair,  the companies gave enthusiastic and positive feedback after the event, said SCEO co-president Anthony Prieto. “They told us they got a lot of great resumes,” he said “It was just a great opportunity for students to get involved in a startup.” 


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