McKinsey? Goldman? Forget It. More MBAs Opt To Spend Summer At Startups

Louis Beryl of Earnest. Photo courtesy of Earnest

Louis Beryl of Earnest. Photo courtesy of Earnest


Increasingly, this generation wants to see meaningful impact in their early careers. They want quicker access to the c-suite. They want to learn in new and uncomfortable settings. They want to be part of something bigger than themselves. And a small, early-stage startup can appease all of those desires. But above all, they want to absorb as much as they can about every aspect of running a business, often in the hopes of someday doing their own startups.

“Overall MBA students are seeing the entire span of their two years as a learning opportunity and many of them see the internship as another portion of that learning opportunity,” says Clare Leinweber, managing director of Wharton Entrepreneurship. “Some are getting startup experience in an industry they might enter. Others are working in early stage venture development and are building something valuable for the company and can see those results.”

Fitzpatrick views it the same way. “A lot of students are thinking about experimenting and doing something quite different with their summers,” she says. “More than 80% of students here want to switch for the summer. The opportunity to jump in and roll up their sleeves is really attractive.”


And that is where Earnest and the interns meet. Eva Wei, 27, a Wharton student worked for JP Morgan before pursuing her MBA and is now in a marketing role for Earnest. Kulkarni, 26, who is working in the “office of the CEO” at Earnest, had done a stint at Bain & Company. Silverman, 30, who is working in capital markets for Earnest, had been at McKinsey. Terraforte, 28, who is busy developing partnerships for Earnest, was at New York Life, and Harvard Business School’s Sabina Robinov, 30, who is doing risk assessment for Earnest, has a resume stamped by Intel and Google.

The combination of hands-on work from the get-go and a more dynamic work environment in the heart of the Bay Area start-up scene should have many mainstream MBA employers knowing that they are increasingly competing with early-stage startups for top talent.

Terraforte, who has spent her young career in a hyper-professional and traditional work environment, says there has been “implicit trust” from the very beginning of the interns completing projects. One example of the trust she gave was being able to dip into her personal and business school networks to secure partnerships for Earnest. “My boss trusts me to pitch my friends and personal network,” she says. “That trust from day one is a huge value to me and unique to Earnest, I think.”

She says the casual dress and acceptance of showing up to work “after 7:59 a.m.” are also huge pluses. Meanwhile, some of her classmates spending the summer with traditional companies are “flying every night” and “at work all the time.”


Cathy Hsu, 31, an MBA student from the University of Chicago’s Booth School who worked at Salesforce, says that while it’s a bummer she has no use for her business suits, she’s enjoyed the job autonomy that comes with an early-stage startup, while her “Bain friends” have spent the summer with very structured and defined tasks.

Robinov says getting to work with passionate and young entrepreneurs has been attractive. “If someone who looks over 35 walks in, you know they are an investor,” she says drawing belly laughs from her fellow interns. “Most of the people my roommates are working with this summer are old—except the interns.” We checked, and it turns out Earnest does have at least one employee “around 50.”

Passion and personality is largely what attracted each intern to Earnest. Beryl’s accessibility and openness is what many of them cited as the initial draw. On Terraforte’s second day of work, she was wondering who the guy was wasting time going around and asking everyone individually what they did for the weekend. She soon learned that guy was the company’s co-founder and CEO.

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