Recently, about a dozen 7th and 8th graders visited TechStars in NYC for the day. They were called the MicroInterns. They worked with our companies all day long and it was an awesome experience for them and for our companies.
I’m a big believer that we need to expose kids to entrepreneurship early and often. Many of them go though middle school, high school, and even college without every really experiencing the energy of entrepreneurship. But when they do get to see it, to live it, to be a part of it, many of them catch the fever. And when they catch it young, it has a huge impact.
I first noticed this when I went to speak to some kids at a local school in Boulder last year, and wrote a blog post called “What I learned from a bunch of middle school kids.” That experience blew me away.
It turns out that some pretty awesome people read my personal blog. One of them is apparently George Haines, who is the teacher that organized the MicroInterns. He reached out to me after reading that post and asked if we could do something like this around TechStars in NYC. It was easy to say yes.
Just as I had experienced in Boulder, these NY kids were amazing. They asked fantastic questions and were hard workers. Many were already thinking about business. We met with the MicroInterns briefly in the morning, and then they went around to each company to get their elevator pitch. Giving your elevator pitch to a bunch of 7th graders is a great experience. Many investors operate at this level (couldn’t resist – you know we love you). These kids will tell you if they don’t get it! The students then got to pick which company they wanted to work with for the day. Each company had a few odd jobs to give the students prepared in advance. These ranged from spell checking a web site to product feedback to market research and more. I think our companies were really surprised by the quality of the work they got back from these kids. At the end of the day, we answered their questions for about an hour in rapid fire fashion.
These kids are lucky to have George as their teacher. In my view, any teacher who goes out of his way to let his students experience the energy and fun of entrepreneurship is a hero. I can guarantee you that this experience impacted these kids positively. Sometime in the next 20 years, I fully expect to get the then-equivalent of an email telling me so and describing one of their companies and how it has changed the world.
I want to do this at all TechStars programs in the future. If you’re a middle school teacher in one of the four TechStars cities (NYC, Boulder, Boston, or Seattle) and this appeals to you, please reach out. If you’re someplace else, please check the TechStars Network (it’s now global and is growing all the time so check back if your city isn’t listed yet). If you see a match, reach out and I’ll connect you to the program in your city.
Here’s a writeup from one of our companies on the day. I caught a photo of Kevin (one of the founders of that company) explaining that social software for the enterprise is kinda like a junior high school dance. Awkward, until somebody breaks the ice. I think they got it.