Conquer Accelerator: A Guided Tour
By Danielle Keusch, Conquer Accelerator Business Development Intern
First, let me introduce myself: I’m Danielle Keusch. I grew up in Portland, Michigan, a small town between Lansing and Grand Rapids — don’t worry if you’ve never heard of it, most people haven’t. Nowadays, I spend my time in East Lansing, studying Mechanical Engineering at Michigan State University where I’m a junior. This summer marks my second with Conquer Accelerator as a Business Development Intern.
Conquer is a business accelerator program. Think of it as a boot camp for startup companies. Each summer, Conquer accepts between four and six startup teams, taking them through ten intensive weeks of programming dedicated to developing their businesses. Each year’s cohort program is tailored to the needs of those startups joining. From launching their products to expanding their market size; from acquiring venture capital investment to connecting with mentors to improve specific aspects of their companies, upon acceptance into the program, Conquer’s teams are part of Michigan State’s flourishing entrepreneurial ecosystem.
How do we make this happen? First, each selected team receives a $20,000 initial investment. Then, during their time with Conquer, they receive one-on-one mentorship, an open and creative co-working space, as well as additional tailored resources.
This is Conquer’s third year. So far, since 2016, ten startups have successfully completed the program. (Check them out here.)
This summer’s cohort is made up of five tech-based startup companies, including Every Two Minutes, Hidlo Studios, Lingco Language Labs, Smart Staffing, and Vloggle.
Every Two Minutes is working to develop its first product, mySidekick, which is a mobile learning platform providing immersive prevention education, skills, and on-demand tools at critical moments to help students combat campus sexual violence.
Smart Staffing, which is working to optimize the matching of the right in-home caregivers with the appropriate clients of private-duty healthcare companies. Their approach not only increases scheduling efficiency but also ensures that caregivers and clients connect positively with one another.
Hidlo Studios is a digital marketing platform creating and managing geofilter campaigns for businesses on Snapchat. Their services allow companies to maximize brand interactions and drive business.
Then there’s Lingco Language Labs, a language-learning platform, providing instructors with the tools they need to create and manage dynamic, engaging lessons for a successful classroom. Their goal: helping every student reach fluency.
Finally, 2018’s cohort is rounded out by Vloggle, an innovative, video-sharing social platform which allows its users to effortlessly create, edit, share, and play quality videos up to ten minutes long.
Life as a Conquer Intern
I know what you’re thinking, “Internships, pfft.” You’re imagining eye-rolling college students running around with over-stuffed, cardboard drink carriers, coffee sloshing around, as the poor student does the bidding of rude, demanding bosses. You’re thinking of an intern neither enjoying her time nor learning anything of value.
Not so for this intern. Not one time in my summer internship, either last year or these first few weeks of 2018’s program, have I encountered awkwardness or negativity. As someone with little experience in the entrepreneurial world, being an intern for the Conquer Accelerator program has taught me far more than I could’ve learned in any classroom. I’ve been taken on a journey with these companies, working side-by-side with them. I feel extraordinarily lucky to be surrounded by some of the most kind-hearted and intelligent people I’ve ever met, and, as an added bonus, I’ve become friends with these fantastic people, who will remain role models and mentors to me.
As a Business Development Intern, I work closely with each team, helping to improve their companies and serving as a weekly pitch coach. Time and again, I see the give-and-take doing business (not to mention pursuing a dream) requires. Over and over, I’ve seen companies push themselves toward what they want, even if the idea doesn’t come easily or immediately.
A common myth: businesses have immediate, overnight success. The reality: success doesn’t just magically happen — and it’s most definitely not a straight line.
I’ve gained a lot from my experiences with Conquer. Alongside the teams, I, too, have found myself developing my abilities, honing my skills in communication, advertising, social media management, research, and database mining — these are all skills I know are essential to my own success. I’ve also learned the importance of (gasp) networking, whether it’s introducing myself to someone new, or working directly with a team member to help her achieve her goals, I’m expanding and diversifying my social circle.
Each week of Conquer, there’s a new speaker, a skill-focused workshop, as well as a venture capitalist who comes in to speak to, and work with, the companies. Through these encounters, I’ve had the opportunity to introduce myself to investors and professionals within the marketing, advertising, finance, and sales spaces across Michigan.
Overall, my internship with Conquer has transformed me into a more outgoing, collaborative, and forward-thinking person. Being surrounded by startups, I see, now, how failure can be overcome, learned from, and transformed into success. Each year, I’m excited to see what each Conquer team achieves after successfully completing the program. Whether they happen to turn into enormous, multimillion-dollar companies, or they become thriving small businesses serving niche markets, I know each team will strive for excellence and will always have the customer’s satisfaction at their core.
I’m grateful for my Conquer Accelerator internship. It opens my eyes to the real world of business and has shaped my perspective about what it means to be successful.
Looking to keep up with nearly everything entrepreneurship at Michigan State? Awesome! We have a new weekly podcast that’s just for you, called Hatchcast. Catch it on all your favorite podcast platforms, including Apple Podcasts, Spotify, and Stitcher. You can also find all our episodes on our website, here.
Danielle Keusch is a junior at Michigan State University studying mechanical engineering. She has been working as a Business Development Intern with Conquer Accelerator for two summers.
To read more from Voices of The MSU Hatch, click here.
Edited by Kaitlyn Setter and Aaryn Richard