In the midst of the implosion of the financial markets in 2008, True Ventures raised its second fund. Founder and partner Phil Black tells us that shortly after this raise in early 2009 (which he calls the “dark days in the financial world”), the fund’s partners were sitting at a meeting looking for innovative ways they could help jump start the tech economy. Inspired by President Obama’s 2009 inaugural address, True Ventures decided to launch their own program to encourage college students to work at early-stage startups, and to help inspire and educate the “entrepreneurs of tomorrow.”
Called the True Entrepreneurs Corps (TEC), the program places 12 undergraduate students in the fund’s early-stage portfolio companies. The internships take place during the summer in the San Francisco area and range in terms of focus, from technical coding to finance to marketing to business development. And TEC offers students a $3000 stipend for the summer.
In addition to the experience at the startups, the students also go through a weekly core curriculum from True Ventures that involves the financial components of founding and running a startup as well as guest lectures from seasoned entrepreneurs. Last summer, the intern class heard from SGN’s Shervin Pishevar, Kwedit’s Danny Shader, David Kirkpatrick and others. Students were asked to read and discuss Jessica Livingston’s Founders at Work, Tony Hsieh’s Delivering Happiness, and other relevant publications, to name a few.
After speaking to a few TEC alums, it’s easy to determine that these internships aren’t the average fetching coffee, making copies type of internships that most college students experience. Ali Shah, an engineering student at NYU, worked at video publishing site VodPod for summer and actually developed the company’s iPhone app. Shah says that after his experience at VodPod he either wants to work at an early-stage startup or start his own company following school.
Harvard student Amelia Lin worked at payments startup PayNearMe,mainly focusing on sales and marketing efforts at the company. Lin actually developed marketing cartoon videos explaining how PayNearMe’s technology works for consumers (you can see them here). SHe also helped develop the startup’s social media strategy. Like Shah, she’s inspired to work at a startup following graduation or start her own company.
What sets TEC apart is that the model is unique for venture firms, who generally offer in-house internship programs but don’t necessarily fund and coordinate internships and educational opportunities within portfolio companies.
For True Ventures, TEC, which is now accepting applications for its third summer program; is a way to pay it forward for both its portfolio startups and potential entrepreneurs and tech leaders. The benefits of the program is two fold. First, TEC offers college students a way to do substantial work at early stage startups while still being able to earn a few bucks over a summer. And True Ventures’ portfolio companies start building relationships with potential talent. Many of these startups would not be able to afford to recruit at colleges and/or compete with large companies like Google, Microsoft or even Facebook for talent.
As Black tells us, “we have a powerful platform and want to effect the startup ecosystem in a positive way.”