Getting experience working at a startup can be a great way to continue to hone your skills and prepare you to launch and lead your own venture. There are many ways to gain this experience including working for a startup for your summer internship or working as a consultant to a startup as a side project.

If you are wanting to position yourself to go full time into your own startup immediately post-graduation, then you should focus your non-classroom energy on demonstrating strong traction that will allow you to begin fundraising (if needed). Take full advantage of the resources that are available to students including many business plan competitions that offer non-dilutive funding (see Competitions & Funding section for more details). Additionally, leverage the Duke and Fuqua alumni network to begin connecting with potential investors early, by asking them to serve as mentors and advisors along your startup journey. Cultivation of an investor network should start well in advance of the date by which you will need funding to continue working on your venture.

Alternatively, some students choose to take a full-time role and continue to work on their venture on the side. There are pros and cons to this approach, which you can read more about here (coming soon).

1️⃣First year of your MBA

  1. If you are searching for the idea you want to pursue, then enroll in New Ventures Discovery. If you have already found a problem and validated that the problem is real and your solution may address that specific need for a target customer group, then enroll in New Ventures Development.
  2. Join the Student Founders program to form a peer circle and access individual coaching.
  3. Find a co-founder or two. Diverse teams accomplish more and are better position for long-term success. Use the breadth of talent across the Duke and Fuqua networks to identify team members that complement your skills.
  4. If you've validated your idea with customers, then it may be time to form your legal entity. Duke Law Startup Venture Clinic, may be able to offer pro-bono support.
  5. Don't let perfect be the enemy of good enough. Start testing with actual customers early. You want to identify and start eliminating risks (a.ka. assumptions) ASAP. One of the biggest mistakes first-time entrepreneurs make is waiting too long to start trying to get their customer base activated and engaged. If you can't reach your customers for testing, how will you reach them when you have a product ready to sell?

😎Summer Internship

Option A: Work on your startup using the CEI E-ternship grant

Working full-time on your startup during the summer between your first and second year is a great way to start to build the traction you will need to position your venture for funding post-graduation. CEI offers financial support through the E-ternship grant program to support student-entrepreneurs that are working full-time on their startup in place of an internship. Applications open in February and award announcements are made in early-March.

Option B: Intern with a startup in a similar industry

Working at a startup in an industry in which you are interested is a great way to learn first-hand how others are structuring for growth, acquiring customers, etc. Internships at startups are typically identified through an independent, custom search process, but the Fuqua CMC has individuals that can support you on that journey. In the Fuqua CMC, Josh Cohen works with students interested in working at startups and VC, so early conversations with him can help ensure you are harnessing the full power of the Fuqua CMC.

Additionally, the EVCC club hosts an informational workshop series about identifying internship opportunities with startups. Watch the EVCC newsletter to the dates of that event series.

2️⃣Second year of your MBA