4 Things I Learned From Joining IDEA

The first in a series from IDEA Management Team members titled “Team Talks”.

Hey, I’m Katie. I’m a 5th year Finance & Entrepreneurship major, and am the current Community Lead at IDEA.

At this point in my college career, IDEA is more than just a school club. It consists of my coworkers, collaborators, friends, and people I go so far as to call my family.

I joined the management team in the Fall of 2016 at the recommendation of a friend. I had never considered myself particularly interested in entrepreneurship or startups, but he pushed me to apply anyways. He assured me I’d be a “good fit.”

After a short interview process, I secured the role of Rotational, which as the name suggests, was a rotational program that spent a portion of the semester with each of 4 teams (Marketing, Operations, Events, and the Investment Committee). Disclaimer: these teams have changed names and functions since I joined. For four months, I soaked up everything I could learn about startups. I read blog posts about starting businesses, researched the venture capital landscape, and talked to our founders.

By the end of the semester, I was hooked.

I spent the next 3 years working on the Investment Committee, evaluating venture business plans for the IDEA Gap Fund. This year, I took on a new adventure, building out the IDEA Community Team, a team focused on venture diversity, and furthering IDEA’s connection with both our ventures and the external Boston community.

With my time at IDEA coming to an end in December, I reflected on the four most important things that IDEA has taught me over the years.

Surround Yourself with People that Make You a Better Person

There is a famous quote from motivational speaker Jim Rohn that says, “you are the average of the 5 people you spend the most time with.” While we may not like to admit it, we are heavily influenced by the people we surround ourselves with.

Luckily, I spend at least 4 hours a day in the IDEA Lab.

When I walk into the lab, I am surrounded by people smarter, more motivated, and more dedicated than me. They make me want to do better everyday — not just for our ventures, or for myself, but for them.

For any underclassmen looking at the next 4 years at Northeastern, I encourage you to find those people. Find the people that will make you a better person and encourage you to always push the limits of your abilities.

Trust me, it will pay off.

Failure is Part of the Process

We tell our ventures from day one in the program that failure is part of the process. Don’t be afraid to fail.

Unfortunately, this is oftentimes easier said than done — and a much harder pill to swallow when we are the ones that are failing.

After my three years on the Investment Committee, we began to notice a distinct set of challenges that we were facing. These challenges had been going on for years, but we had historically never focused on solving them.

The first, was the lack of venture diversity in our program. While we love each and every venture that comes through the IDEA program, we began to recognize that many of them came from the business school and that many of them were started by men.

Second, was that the access to resources in our program was disjointed. While we have an insane number of resources at our disposal, the knowledge was not accessible to all members of the management team and ventures in a clear way.

We realized we had failed the ventures in our program. Good thing we knew this was just part of the process.

It was time for action.

Don’t be Afraid to Change the Status Quo

We knew we needed to step it up and change the status quo. We were done making excuses about why the diversity in our program was lacking or why the management team wasn’t totally up to speed with all of the resources the program had to offer.

We gathered a group of 6 seasoned management team members, and came up with an action plan. Three meetings and 10+ hours later, we knew it was going to take a complete revamp of the program.

We were confident that by restructuring our internal teams, and focusing heavily on venture diversity, we would be able to take our failures and turn them into our successes.

While daunting, we knew it was necessary. We couldn’t be afraid to change the status quo.

Community Matters

We decided that one, large part of the revamped IDEA program should be the creation of a Community Team.

The idea played off of a Forbes article titled The Rise of “the Platform” for Venture Capital Funds, which detailed the importance of creating a community around founders.

“As the venture industry grows and becomes more competitive and founder focused, capital alone doesn’t create success stories. Here’s what matters now: How the firm helps you build the community and ecosystem around your idea. That’s where “the platform” comes into focus.”

The idea of a platform resonated with the team.

Shortly thereafter, the Community Team was born. The Community Team would be actively focused on problem-solving and building an ecosystem around our entrepreneurs. The team would be responsible for managing and enhancing IDEA’s community through increased venture diversity, proactive engagement with non-business students, providing better access to resources, and meaningful programming.

Only three months into the job, the experiment has proven to me that community does matter. Fostering an inclusive, diverse environment, where everyone has the same access to resources has paid off. We actively working to develop both management team members and bring more diverse founders into the program. This recruitment round, we are proud to see 60% of the applications coming from non-business related fields.

But while we have made great progress, we’ve only scratched the surface. I’m looking forward to seeing the growth of the Community Team in years to come.

Do you want to be a part of IDEA’s Management Team? Applications are now open for a variety of roles, including Marketing, Venture and Community. Applications close on November 15th, Apply now!