My Summer Building a Startup and Working For an Accelerator

BY STEFANO GASPERINI

This Summer, I had the opportunity to intern in Boulder, CO. I worked for UpRamp, a later stage Accelerator, and participated in Startup Summer, a program focused on starting a startup in ten weeks. The following is an overview of my experience along with my learnings in a practical form.

But first, I must say that I wouldn’t have been able to do this without the help of the people at StartUP FIU. I worked there for nearly 8 months and learned virtually everything I know about Entrepreneurship. Having said that, let’s now begin!

UpRamp

UpRamp is an accelerator under Cablelabs, a research and development non-profit for the Cable industry. Every year, they help 3–6 later-stage startups get deals with huge companies like Comcast, CableONE, and others.

Last team meeting

My job consisted on building their operating system, automating several processes, and doing anything needed for the team to succeed. Unfortunately, I left just before the program started, but I did get a chance to attendSummerConference and meet the cohort! These are some of the things I learned:

Always do world-class work: If you do, you will become reliable, and you will be assigned more meaningful work. If you have too much work, use your best judgement to determine what to prioritize, and if you cannot make that decision, ask the person that can. Just make sure to not settle for anything but excellence.

Being yourself is the right strategy: Understand who you are and only take actions that align with that identity. It is the only way for you to find the place where you belong. Prestige, ego, fear, and others will seduce you into deviating from this path. Don’t do it.

Also, make sure you express your real self to the world; that way, you will attract the right people and opportunities.

Startup Summer

Startup Summer is a 10-week program where 50 students from around the country form teams, build a startup, and participate in a pitch competition. In order to participate, one must also get a full-time internship in Colorado, but they help you with that. I highly recommend it to anyone interested in Entrepreneurship.

On week 1, we bonded and attended several events, including a TEDx talk that I really enjoyed. On week 2, we had already pitched our ideas, formed teams, and started to work on the startup. I joined a team of 4 people to create an experiential company that designed educational field trips. It was the only slightly social project, so I decided to jump on it.

We followed the Design Thinking methodology to build our startup, so we began by empathizing with our customer. Ultimately, we realized there was no problem to be solved, so we pivoted. We started to work on Likability.org, a review platform where individuals with disabilities can find the right service provider to meet their needs, whether that’s an educational institution or a theme park.

After several weeks of work, we pitched at the final competition. All the pitches were on point, but we managed to win 1st place and were awarded $3000!

Minutes after winning the pitch competition 

It was phenomenal to win, but honestly, it wasn’t nearly as valuable as the network we built and the lessons we learned during those 10 weeks. These are some of those things:

Giving is the right strategy: You will be happier and more successful in business. Try it for a month. Whenever you meet someone, seek to understand how you can add value to that person and then do it. You can add value by listening, by giving your time, by making an introduction, by recommending an article, etc. If you want to read more about this idea, read The Go-giver; it’s a wonderful book.

Get as many experiences as possible: I saved some money and decided to drive to San Francisco and Los Angeles once the internship was over. I met many smart people, visited several universities, and tried plenty of new things. This trip ended up changing my plans for next Summer, which in itself provided me with a positive return on investment.

Let’s sum up!

This was a wonderful experience, and I would recommend it to anyone interested in Entrepreneurship. Also, in case you were wondering about the future of Likability: two of my team members will continue to build it from Denver, hopefully launching in early 2019!

I moved back to Miami and will be competing on this year’s Hult Prize, so you will probably find me in StartUP FIU working on that for the rest of the semester. Feel free to reach out if I can be of any help!

About Stefano: 

Stefano is an FIU student passionate about Traditional and Social Entrepreneurship. Within the last two years, he has worked for two accelerators, including StartUP FIU, and participated in a startup programcalled Startup Summer. He is currently participating in the Hult Prize, where he is working with a team to create 10 million jobs in the next 10 years. He is always looking for new people to meet and intriguing articles to read, so feel free to reach out! stefano.marco.gasperini@gmail.com