Time as a Rebel: An Intern’s Story
As a Morehead-Cain scholar at the University of North Carolina, I must spend at least one summer working for a private enterprise, a for-profit company. Instead of taking the familiar route and going to intern at a consulting firm, I wanted to find an experience that would allow me to expand my understanding of the European market, provide me the opportunity to be dynamic with changing tasks and projects, and gain knowledge about early stage startups such as funding, investment, and filing intellectual property processes. With a background in data, Chinese, and computer science, I sent out cold emails to a series of tech startups and a handful of startup accelerators. After a few conversations with RebelBio and the final okay from founder, Bill Liao, I was set to work as a full time operations intern for the summer of 2017, helping the 15 companies of their 4th cohort successfully complete the program at Demo Day 2017 in London.
My experience at RebelBio helped me learn the initial knowledge about startups I wanted to gain from the mentors in the SOSV family, but every day, I also gained new insight from the fearless female founders and the resourcefulness among the companies when lab equipment was unavailable or other obstacles occurred. RebelBio was a very special place to be for eight weeks with a strong community of entrepreneurs. As an outsider coming in at the beginning of the third month, in between Day 30 presentations and Day 60, I found my place at the company and how I could contribute with investor relations, website administration, and social media management. However, it was the community gained that is what left the largest impact on my experience.
As many mentors who visited the program explained, the startup world and working in a lab can be lonesome jobs. It can be hard finding people to share your experience with, but RebelBio created that community for myself and the 15 companies. In addition to understanding the importance of community, I learned the importance of hustling and maintaining a network.
To elaborate, the importance of hustle does not just mean to move fast, but move fast with purpose. If you have a goal, and it fails, do not stop. Try another solution. Ask your friends and colleagues for advice. Showing how you pivot and change when facing an adversary, and how you work under stress, shows your potential to investors and mentors. If you cannot recover and shift your plan, the entrepreneurial world is going to be very challenging because practically nothing goes to plan. You will not always get the investor, you will not always get the equipment, and you will not always get the sale, but learn, grow, and challenge your company through pivots.
Additionally, build a network of peers, colleagues, and investors to help you grow. Your network has the power to introduce you to potential investors, advisors, and other key players in your field. It is much easier when you have a connection to introduce you to get a reply via email. Also, when you are a pre-revenue company, it is important to retain your network. A great way to do this could be to maintain a mailing list to send regular updates. Something I continually heard during my time at RebelBio was to never stop reporting.
What I learned at RebelBio can apply to more than just entrepreneurship, but to my life at university, and my career path after the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill. I am tenacious and continually hustling to find new growth opportunities. Pivoting and learning have been key, because there are programs that I have gotten denied from, but I have continued to search for key opportunities to improve my own skills. Correspondingly, the people I have met previously have introduced me to public health mentors and entrepreneurs that have shared their founder stories. I believe I am still realizing all of the skills I learned through my time at RebelBio, and I know I have a community there as well.
Gabi Stein is a third year Morehead-Cain Scholar at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill. She is currently majoring in Biostatistics in the Gillings School of Public Health with a minor in Computer Science. She recently completed a two month internship at RebelBio and is now continuing work in the SOSV family by joining RebelBio Cohort 4 company Sex Positive as a marketing intern.