4. June 2014–
They work where you don’t really see them. Most other startups or users don’t know their names. They’re not the highlights at conferences and you won’t find their pictures on the frontpage of a magazine. Yet, without them things would often not work as founders hope. They are smart and hungry. They are interns.
Having many interns is common in a startup. For many, it is their “in” to get valuable job experience and to build up a network for a later full-time job. Just ask Pierre Guyonnet-Duperat (24) and Erica Ivarsson (21). They are both interns at the Berlin-based startup GLOBALS, a business that helps expats to become locals by introducing them to those who can empower them*.
We caught up with Erica and Pierre to speak to VentureVillage on their experience as interns, how they make their living, and why they picked a startup instead of going corporate.
Meet the interns
After moving back and forth from Spain to England, where she worked at an events management company, Erica from Sweden decided to move to Berlin last October to study International Business. In March, she started her part-time internship at Globals.
Pierre (studying Entrepreneurship) from France decided to move to Berlin for his internship after living in Montreal, where he did an internship in the relocation industry, and in New York to support the events team of a startup.
Though they are well experienced, they are unpaid. Here is what keeps them going:
“University programs are good for the basis, but the reality takes place outside the classroom,” explains Pierre.
Professors with a vague understanding of the digital market and the web are a problem when pitching business projects in school. “They just don’t get what you try to explain to them, because they are from the old industry,” Pierre says.
University is helpful to teach the theory both agree, but working in a startup gets you insights into skills you need to start building a successful career. That starts with simple organisational tools such as Google Drive folders.
As Pierre and Erica agree, when working in a startup, the good is the bad. You do everything. On the one hand, they see that this gives them a lot of chances to get to gain experience in many different areas. On the other hand, they admit that it is easy to get distracted, because there are so many different tasks to get done. Marketing, PR, Events, Business Development – that can easily be one person’s responsibility.
The two agree that learning the reality of a startup instead of reading success stories in the paper is priceless.
It’s not about the money
It’s about the experience and the knowledge interns get. “I wasn’t concerned about money,” says Erika. “It’s the experience that will pay out in the long run. Also, I was looking for international connections. And here is where I found it.”
“Friends work at big companies, do 35 hours a week, are well paid, but really they do nothing,” Pierre adds.
Erica and Pierre face different challenges every day. Erica explains that she felt that corporates want to do interns a favor by having them but, in reality, they did not really need them. “With startups, it’s different,” she says. “The startups actually need you. Everything is priority. They need workforce.”
Getting things done instead of working from 9 to 5
We talked with startup interns about their experience, how they make their living, and why they picked a startup instead of going corporate.Pierre, who is contracted to work 35 hours a week, explains it easily sums up to 50.
“We stay until things are done. Doesn’t matter if it’s 7 or 10 at night,” says Pierre. Checking and responding to Emails on weekends pays off: “If I have exams coming up, my boss is understanding and supporting,” says Erica. “It’s giving and taking instead of strict rules.”
As both explore new areas (Marketing and Business Development), they also find ways to get their questions answered. “We can always ask our boss or other team members,” Erica explains. At other times, they ask friends or search for solutions online.
How people afford an unpaid internship
While Erica has a scholarship from Sweden, Pierre is supported by his parents. “It’s not much different than from being in school,” he explains. “The difference is that Berlin is cheaper than Bordeaux. Therefore, that works fine.”
“I'm so grateful for having such talented people who choose GLOBALS to other paid internships,” states Mario, the CEO of GLOBALS.
“You should choose the company for the love then for the money. That's how I started and have been very successful. I love being surrounded by inspired people that love what they do and invest in our vision.” Mario says his team members were mostly recommended by other interns or GLOBALS members.
“I want them to learn how to be an entrepreneur,” he says. “Make gold out of sh*t and empower them to shine.”
Investing in the future
That seems to fit into Pierre’s and Erica’s plan. Both want to finish their studies, work in different companies, experience and learn before starting their own company. Learning how things work, going through the trouble of starting a company, see the pain and solve the problems instead of jumping right in makes more sense to them.
Advice to those who are about to come to Berlin
Learn the language. Both did not do an intensive German course before arriving, but recommend to do so for those who about to do so. Though many people speak English, both went through small trouble by not learning German. They were also surprised many places do not accept credit cards but only debit cards.
Globals was started by Mario Paladini (32) in 2012. He was new to Germany and faced exactly the problems he wants to solve now. It starts with finding the right insurance, to moving into a new house, or get hired for a new job. Mario has raised funding in the low five digits and is focussing building value before launching a bigger funding round. Globals is used by about 1.000 expats that can access about 150 deals.
Image Source: GLOBALS