Summer Internship Series: Pre-MBA Internship

Incoming Class of 2014 student Rob Mazzoni took it upon himself to secure an internship this past summer at a startup in San Francisco called Airtime. He reached out to TBE to discuss his experience there and what his key take-aways are.

I’ve always been drawn to the investment world: the constantly changing markets, countless factors influencing company performance, and the huge resulting challenge to successfully manage investment portfolios. After I completed my undergrad degree, I joined the university’s endowment to help manage its private investment portfolio. After a couple of years there, the endowment’s head of private investments asked me to help him and his co-founder start a venture capital fund-of-funds, which gave me a chance to become more of an expert and to help build a business from scratch – a valuable skillset if I’m lucky enough to help lead an investment firm someday. After almost five years at TrueBridge Capital, I was ready once again to transition closer to the action. I wanted exposure to the ground floor – a chance to see how the sausage is made, so to speak! So this summer, prior to enrolling at Chicago Booth, I joined Airtime, a video communications company started by Sean Parker and Shawn Fanning and financed by Andreessen Horowitz, Founders Fund, Kleiner Perkins, and Accel Partners.

At Airtime, I’ve immersed myself in startup culture. I jumped into meetings led by Parker, an amazing technologist with an operating track record that includes Facebook, Spotify, Napster, and Plaxo, as he discussed his vision for our product and why he is so excited about the opportunity in video. Airtime launched in early June, and I’ve seen subsequent iterations as we strive to find the perfect market fit. I’ve spent considerable time with Airtime’s leadership, including heads of marketing, product management, and design, to understand how all the pieces of successful startups fit together. As an investor my entire career, I definitely worried about the value I could add to a tech startup, particularly in two short months. But there is so much to do at Airtime (and I assume in startups generally) that my time has been fast-paced, insightful, and extremely fun. I’ve analyzed the competitive dynamics in our market, as well as potential strategic partners. I’ve organized our cap table and investor database, and in the process learned the nuts and bolts of startup economics. I’ve worked with our head of marketing to help manage our social marketing strategies, and contributed to business development meetings with prospective corporate partners. And during my summer in San Francisco, I’ve met tons of dynamic, driven entrepreneurs and venture capitalists who are passionate about their work. All in all, my first taste of startup life has exceeded my wildest expectations.

Amidst my final days at Airtime, I’m super excited to meet my new classmates next week and begin what promises to be an awesome two years at Booth!

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