Why this student’s startup experience trumps internships
About the author: Mike Naughton fills the roles of "Yiivangelist" and sole developer for Fundle, a startup he helped launch at Startup Weekend Des Moines in March. Naughton lives in Ames and is currently pursuing a degree in computer science at Iowa State University.
Naughton recently wrote a post on the Fundle blog about the valuable experience that working for a startup provides for students, and he kindly agreed to let us republish that post here on Silicon Prairie News.
(Photo courtesy of Naughton)
Mike Naughton (back row) formed Fundle, a group purchasing app, at Startup Weekend Des Moines earlier this year with his teammates Rob Jensen (far left) and Shannon Thomas (middle left). Also pictured, Miles Matthias (middle right) and Andrew Kirpalani (far right). Photo from fundle.co.
Best Internship Ever!
Many computer science and software engineering majors start looking for internships during their sophomore and junior years. They go to career fairs, usually dressed in a suit and tie, or whatever the female equivalent is, shake hands with and smile at people from large companies and talk about how their coursework is somewhat related to their prospective job or internship with that company. During this process, there are usually awkward moments when the student will realize that he/she has absolutely no knowledge of, or interest in, the product of that prospective labor.
I know this because I’ve done it, besides the suit and tie get-up. Unfortunately, in Iowa, we don’t really get a very diverse set of organizations at career fairs; you’re either going to be working with corn, tractors, trains or financial stuff. Perhaps if you’re really lucky, you’ll get a job or internship at one of the big "brands" like Microsoft or Hitachi.
Fortunately for me, I discovered Startup Weekend, and not only did I discover Startup Weekend, but I also was lucky enough (or smart enough…) to join one of the few teams that, after many months, is still going strong. In a matter of days, we’ll be opening up our service as a private beta to the individuals who signed up via our LaunchRock site, beta.fundle.co. The fact that we’ve made it this far, and that we’ve made so much progress, is incredibly exciting for me! It’s certainly worth more than any standard internship could provide.
Along the way, there have certainly been ups and downs. Two of the original five team members decided that their priorities weren’t conducive for continuing with Fundle. But at the same time, more and more people seem to be interested in this service. Just about every week, Shannon (Thomas, Fundl's CEO) is telling us about how she was chatting with one person or another about the concept, and that they were excited to use it! At times when I’ve thought the momentum was giving out, we’ve come across another business contact or made another leap in progress that completely nullified my concern.
Throughout this summer, as if I were on an internship, I've been able to apply things I’ve learned in college to the real world. Our website has gone through several invisible structure changes with the promise of a very flexible system. Although I won’t go into detail, as a developer, it’s always exciting to a see a data structure mature into something your college professors would be proud of! I’ve also learned a bit about some of the development frameworks I’ve been using, and some things about server administration as well!
All in all, working on this project over the summer beats any internship! The cool part is: I don’t have to quit when I go back to school! We’ve got some awesome things in the pipeline for Fundle, so stay tuned!