At 9:00am on the morning of Tuesday, October 2nd, twenty three Lakeside high school students entered the TechStars building on Boren Avenue here in Seattle. Unlike their normal routine of going from class to class and laboring over assignments, these students had the unique opportunity to work with the ten bright startup companies currently in session at TechStars.
Over the last couple years, two other programs like this have taken place both at our Boulder program and in New York City. Seattle had a different twist; instead of hosting middle school students like Boulder and New York, we invited high school kids. They worked on more advanced projects, including game testing, analyzing market data and even building a single page website. The day-long program in Seattle offered a deeply involved experience. Students worked with teams on similar topics to our past microinternships but on a more advanced level than the middle schoolers.
After a brief introduction and a background of TechStars from our managing director, Andy Sack, the students were paired with teams and began working on projects for their assigned companies. Having prepared this event for the past month, I had an outline regarding my expectations for how the day would play out. It looked like this: Students would meet the teams and decide whom they wanted to work with for the day. They would work for several hours, turn in their projects and return for a Q & A session at the end. What differed from my predictions was the level of engagement these students created with a single day. The teams approached their tasks with such thoughtful and creative methods that the founders couldn’t believe they were working with 16 and 17 year-olds. The day culminated in the students presenting their work to the group with an amazingly in-depth display of their efforts. I was astounded by their simplified yet extremely clear description of each team and mission. At the end of the day, teams were so inspired by watching their microinterns work that they wanted a second day with the students.
In September of 2010, CEO and Founder of TechStars, David Cohen, reflected on the Microinternship Program they hosted in Boulder: “I was absolutely blown away by the quality of the questions and also by the blunt and direct nature of them,” said Cohen. “There was genuine curiosity that was palpable. These kids wanted to understand more about entrepreneurship.”
“Spending the day learning about Maptia truly was such an amazing experience,” said one student. “I really have been inspired by the way you created something so cool… Seeing an idea evolve into something tangible and that these somewhat crazy ideas can actually become a reality.”
Getting students involved in entrepreneurship at an early age is an unprecedented opportunity for both students and founders. Based on the overwhelmingly positive reactions from both parties, there is a lot of potential to further this opportunity at TechStars and Lakeside, but also linking the greater entrepreneurial community of TechStars with local schools at each of our programs.