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  •  This Ain't Your Father's Internship

    Wednesday, Feb. 16, 2011 12:00 AM

    A Feb. 22 Startup Expo at Santa Clara University offers students the chance for an internship at one of dozens of Silicon Valley startups in areas like Internet coupons, solar power, online retail, and customized iPhone apps.

    SANTA CLARA, Calif., Feb. 16, 2011--- Santa Clara University business student Katherine King’s first internship two years ago was with a well-known insurance company, where she worked on a single project, using procedures that had been tested and honed for years before she ever got there.

    At her new internship, with a startup Internet advertising company, she sits steps away from the company’ s CEO and COO; has done market research to help them win new clients; and has helped the company document new procedures for various operations.

    For King, a junior majoring in finance, it’s a priceless lesson in how a fast-growing, high-energy Silicon Valley startup operates (complete with a Ping-Pong table in the break room). And she loves it.

    “I feel like I’m really having an impact, and the people who started the company really care about how I’m doing,” she says.

    With great success, Santa Clara University has been ramping up its startup-internship offerings for students like King. A dozen or so students each quarter take a business practicum course, where they are offered internships at startups of all kinds. The work includes everything from revamping websites, reviewing and shaping business plans to show to venture capitalists, to helping with strategies for growth or new clients.

    Other students get internships through the university’s Center for Innovation and Entrepreneurship (CIE), sometimes by way of the university’s entrepreneurship club, the Santa Clara Entrepreneurship Organization (SCEO).

    The reaction from startups has been overwhelming. “We now have far more requests for startup interns than we have bodies to fill them,” said Daniel Aguiar, executive director of CIE.

    To fix that, this year for the first time the CIE and SCEO have joined forces with the University’s career center to offer a Startup Expo internship fair Feb. 22. Dozens of companies – some offering Internet coupons, others hosting online wine reviews, manufacturing lightweight solar panels, or gathering retail intelligence -- will be on hand to woo students to work for them in stints that can be paid or unpaid.

    Employers are eager for the interns. “Every company needs that energy,” said George Sollman, chairman of Corticon Technologies, an enterprise-software startup that’s hired two of its previous SCU interns as full-time employees.

    For the interns, it’s an opportunity to impress the right people in a short time frame. “At small companies you are really visible, and students who are strong and confident in their skill sets really blossom,” said Sollman.

    Students who take internships at startups get a unique experience in many ways:

    *Variety. Students often get exposed to every segment of the startup, from marketing to strategy to finance and sales.
    *Visibility. At many companies, interns are one of fewer than a dozen employees, so the CEO and other top executives get to see them in action.
    *Respect. With so few resources, startups greatly value the input of their interns.
    * Full-time job opportunities.

    Deborah Lohse | SCU Media Relations | |  (408) 554-5121

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