Startup Chile

Startup CEO: How To Quit The Trading Floor and Do A Startup Placing Interns All Around The World

The Intern Group offers amazing opportunities to gain vital work experience, develop extensive, global networks and see the best of what some of the greatest cities in the world have to offer

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It’s easy to get stuck in an unfulfilling corporate career path. Before you know it, you turn around wonder where all that time went. In some industries, like banking or consulting, it’s very hard to jump ship from the lucrative safety net of the corporate world to the treacherous waters of entrepreneurship.

David Lloyd decided to forgo a potentially lucrative career in banking to start his own company in South America and in less than two years, his company is doing a few million in revenue. The business? He places talented individuals with international internship programs in London, Madrid & Latin America where they go to work for leading companies, NGOs & National Governments and live a cultural immersion in a new, fascinating country.

I recently caught up with David to talk about what it’s like to rip off the golden handcuffs of the corporate world and to discuss his business called The Intern Group.

You had a great career path as a banker. What made you decide to quit in order to pursue The Intern Group?

I realized early on in banking that the rigid, hierarchical corporate path in a mature, saturated industry was not where I wanted to spend the next decades of my life.

Before banking I had done something more unusual. I moved to Latin America after university with the goal of becoming fluent in a second language. I moved to Buenos Aires, where I knew no-one, and enrolled in intensive Spanish classes. Outside language classes I searched for an internship as I wished to use and improve my fledgling Spanish in a work-place environment. However, with no particular contacts in a highly contact based environment, I was in trouble. Finally, after months of trying, I was offered a marketing internship at Rolex. The value to my resume of an international blue-chip name, in the context of a different culture and language was enormous.

I developed a great deal through my internship experience abroad. I set up The Intern Group so that individuals have the opportunity to do the same as I did – but in a structured, systematic and educational way – and develop themselves professionally and personally.

How did you go about funding the business? After all, you just quit your job.

I had enough saved up to bootstrap with a very basic WordPress website et al. I started to apply to Start-Up Incubators and 8 months after starting the business we were accepted into Start-Up Chile, a Chilean government program for international entrepreneurs, and awarded 40,000 USD in equity-free seed capital. Shortly afterwards, during Start-Up Chile, we turned cash-flow positive and have not looked back.

What advice would you give aspiring entrepreneurs especially those stuck in the corporate world?

Don´t talk yourself out of it. It is easy to say “You need to be rich to start a business”. You don´t. Technology has made the amount of money needed to launch a start-up astonishingly low. “But what if it doesn´t work. The risk!?”. Do you want to live your life thinking “what-if?”. Yes, your planned project might not work out. But failure, in this context, is seen as a good thing by the people that count – if you learn from it. Many of the most successful businessmen and women started with out-right failures. You learn more from failing than succeeding. The far bigger risk is talking yourself out of it and staying in a job you are unhappy with.

Where do you go from here?

The Intern Group is now on the way to becoming a mainstream option within global higher education.

Just like study-abroad programs became established in recent decades, I see the same now happening with structured intern-abroad programs. Crucially, interning abroad brings even more benefits than traditional study abroad. Not only do you learn all about a country´s history and culture by being immersed there, and develop language skills essential in a globalized world, but you also develop the critical professional skills necessary to advance your career.

I see The Intern Group leading this movement, with more, exciting destinations in our portfolio and further governmental/university partnerships as the next step.

As a young company, operating various international offices presents an extra layer of challenge. How have you overcome these challenges and are there any other pieces of advice you’d give to aspiring business operators?

Firstly, great co-founders/partners in the business. In every program destination we operate, a local partner is leading the business locally, and they are always from the destination. They grew up there. They have the local professional network, and the local know-how vital for success. If your international team is talented, and invested emotionally and financially, you are on the right track.

Secondly, and as a function of the first point, this brings up the importance of spending a lot of time on hiring. I read the other day of a company who spends 98% of their time on hiring, and 2% on resolving hiring mistakes whereas most companies do the opposite. I am a big advocate of this philosophy. In large companies a bad hire is costly. In smaller, younger companies, especially those with different teams spread out around the world, it can break you.

Thirdly, lots of communication. When you are far away from each other, it is easy for individuals and even entire local offices to feel somewhat dislocated and isolated. We prevent this with technology and lots of good-old fashioned talking.

Acquisition Breathes Life Into Emerging Digital Death Industry

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Nathan Lustig and Jesse Davis are the cofounders of Entrustet, a company that helps you access, transfer and delete your digital assets when you die. The company was acquired by SecureSafe, a the market leader in secure online storage and digital inheritance. Entrustet is Lustig and Davis’ second company that has been acquired.

I caught up with them today to ask them a few questions about the deal and about their experiences starting a company.

Q. Where did the idea of Entrustet come from?

A. Jesse was reading The World is Flat by Thomas Friedman which explains the story of Justin Ellsworth, a US Marine who was killed in Iraq. His parents wanted more to remember him by, so they asked Yahoo for the contents of his email. Yahoo said no way, it’s against our terms of service.

A few months later, a Michigan judge ruled that Yahoo must turn over the contents of Justin’s account to his parents. We thought three things: 1) digital assets are real things that have economic and sentimental value, 2) you shouldn’t have to go to court to gain access to them, and 3) what if you have digital assets you don’t want anyone see?

We looked around and there weren’t any services to help solve the problem and decided to start. Our vision was to build a product that easily and painlessly let people decide what would become of their valuable online accounts and computer files after they pass away.

Q. You built the business in a place other than silicon valley and NYC? Please explain.

A. Entrustet has taken a long and winding path. We started the company in Madison, WI, which in our humble opinion is an up and coming startup hub in the Midwest. Our initial plan was to stay in Madison to save money during the bootstrap phase and build a great team, then move to NYC or Silicon Valley after we started to build some traction. Madison’s ridiculously cheap cost of living is one of its greatest attributes. Add that to a creative and helpful community of smart people and you’ve got a nice place to try to start something.

After a year, we had a product built, users and press, but not the massive scale traction we wanted. We saw an article in Forbes about a program called Startup Chile that was inviting startups to Chile and giving them $40,000 of free money. We wanted to extend our runway and we thought exchanging the brutal Wisconsin winter for Santiago summer.

After our 6 months in Chile, we came back tom Madison and continued to work until the acquisition.

Q. Did you raise money? How did you do that?

A. We raised a round of angel money from angels in the Midwest and East coast, plus a grant from Startup Chile. We built our prototype, launched it and then took it to potential future investors. Our biggest step towards fundraising was showing angels that we were serious. We had a prototype built, a full business plan, and showed tremendous support from the local business community.

Q. What is Startup Chile and how did it help?

A. Startup Chile is a program from the Chilean government to foster entrepreneurship in Chile. They give startups $40,000 of free money if you move to Chile for 6 months. It gave us a longer runway to help us perfect our business model and continue pivoting without having to give up equity. We met entrepreneurs from all over the world, including startups we ended up working with.

Q. How did you get clients?

A. Our main sources were via our blog and the press we generated, via attorneys recommending Entrustet to their clients. We also worked with websites to refer their users to Entrustet so that they could have a standardized policy for user deaths.

Q. How did the acquisition come about?

A. We’d been working in the market for three years and got to know the SecureSafe team very well. We strongly believe that the future successes in of digital estate planning are companies that help users equally while they are living and when they pass away.

SecureSafe passes both of these tests and we were very interested in figuring out how to work together. We also have most of our users in North and South America, while SecureSafe is concentrated in Europe. As our relationship developed, we realized that our visions were very well aligned and we decided it would be a classic win-win if we joined forces.

Q. What are your future plans?

A. Nathan is returning to Chile to work on a Chilean startup company called Welcu that was funded by 500 Startups and Tomorrow Ventures. Founded by Sebastian Gamboa and Nicolas Orellana, Nathan is helping them expand in Argentina, Colombia and Brazil. Jesse accepted a job with Buddy Media, a fast-growing late stage startup in its own right, based in NYC.

Connect with Dan Reich on Twitter – @danreich. (Disclosure: Dan is also a current employee at Buddy Media)

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