NMotion Interns — Digging into projects on Day 1

How to craft non-sucky startup internships

May 23, 2017 · 4 min read

Startupland is the ultimate land of opportunity. As founders, we get to tackle hard challenges, learn and develop new skills, and literally build the future.

This is true of the founders we invest in at NMotion. It’s also true of the interns we hire to support our startups during the accelerator.

Interns can provide a TON of value to our portfolio companies. And there’s probably no better way to inspire the next batch of entrepreneurs than to let talented students work on a variety of projects for fast-moving, innovative startups.

At the same time, internships are known for being a hard thing for companies to manage and execute well. Everyone knows the trope of the bored intern who just fetches coffee and does busy work all summer.

Ain’t nobody got time for that in a startup.

So how do we make our internship program valuable, instead of a headache and drain on resources?

After the success of working with four interns last year, we’ve upped the ante this year. We have six interns spanning functional areas for business, design, copywriting, and photography/videography. In addition, one of our interns from last year who stayed on as a year-round associate is now part of the core NMotion team and is helping train and mentor this year’s batch.

Intern + Cohort lunch on the first day

Our core philosophy is that interns are highly skilled and capable of complex, ambiguous projects. Give them space, independence, and as-needed support and they’ll rise to the occasion.

There are just a few things you need to do first…

Prioritize problem-solving during hiring

Our hiring process is intense — interns have to complete a complex application, which filters out candidates that are less motivated or less independent. In fact, there’s even a trick question designed to see how they handle uncertainty. The point of that question isn’t the actual answer — it’s how they solve it.

Prioritize independence and hustle

We interview candidates to see how well they can handle complex projects on their own. Just like our startup founders, we expect our interns to be able to take on projects they’ve never done before, don’t know how to do, and that no one will likely help them complete. We need interns that can take on challenges and figure it out.

Through our application and interview process, we have a high degree of confidence that our interns will be a good fit for the fast-moving and intense environment of our accelerator. Then, success is dependent on good systems to support the interns and our teams.

Prioritize team communication & iterating on our process

We utilize scrum to manage intern projects. Since our interns get to pick which projects they work on, we need a way to track what tasks are in progress, who is doing what, and have an easy way to communicate and collaborate. This is a complex system and we need to coordinate expectations of our founders with a cross-functional intern team. Scrum is the best tool we could use to make the work transparent, encourage communication, and iterate on our process over time.

Prioritize coaching our startups on how to use interns

We believe an accelerator is the best place for new founders to learn leadership and management skills that they’ll need as their team grows. We coach our founders on how to assign projects that interns can tackle independently, take ownership of, and create value for the startups. Since most of our teams have never hired outside contractors or employees, this is good training for developing the skills they’ll need as they move into the next phase of their business beyond the core founding team.

So what are some of the projects our interns worked on in their first week?

  • Built potential contact list for customer discovery interviews
  • Designed screenshots for app store profile
  • Made an explainer video
  • Developed a new user welcome guide

There is no better place for bright, talented students to work for the summer than an accelerator. We feel pretty fortunate to get to work with these six students this year.

And our ideal outcomes? Maybe they get inspired to start a startup. Even better, they go work for a startup next year as a first employee. Either way, everyone wins when an accelerator like ours invests time and money into building a strong, impactful internship program.

Feeling inspired? Click the 💚 to help others find this article.

Read more posts by NMotion at at www.nmotion.co.

Beth McKeon

Written by

Founder/CEO — Fluent | We help first-time founders build startups like serial entrepreneurs

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