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Dear Startups, here's why you must hire interns!

Alina Benny
23rd May 2015
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What if I told you that you're missing a crucial cog in your team? Are you sure you did not fail to grab some huge opportunities? Do you feel confident that you've done everything you can to ensure your company has what it takes for rapid innovation?

intern

Image Credit : "ShutterStock"

If you are a startup founder with big ideas and goals which keep you working all sorts of crazy hours, then you probably know how important it is to stay up-to-date. Client/customer meetings, pulling in all-nighters to get out that MVP, accelerator/investor meetups, maniacally working to put out the perfect pitch, working like a zombie to make sure your pre-launch/crowdfunding campaign gets sufficient traction...I could go on and on.

No, I don't own a business, nor am I a core team member. Heck, I don't even graduate until summer 2016. Who am I? I'm the constantly learning and re-learning entity, I'm the toiling-with-whatever-I-have person. I'm the bright-eyed, bushy-tailed sidekick -- the Tails (pun intended) to Sonic the Hedgehog. I belong to a new breed of innovation. I am the Startup Intern.

Sprinter vs. Marathoner

 

Stay with me on this one.

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Both the sprinter and the marathoner are athletes -- yes, they both run. But the similarities end there; one looks like the 80s movie star with his pumped upper body and strong fast-twitch fibers while the other looks like he's had one too many crash course diets.

The sprinter's the expert -- he's got the brains, the mouth and demands a fat paycheck. The marathoner? He's the intern.

As a founder, you already know you're short-handed and must absolutely pick the pace up soon. So, you do your SWOT analysis and you think to yourself: "Damn, I need a sprinter." But sprinters -- they're built to perform for a short span of time. These guys are trained to react quickly and give you instant results but they tire quickly too. The marathoner, though he may be half the size of the sprinter, may not necessarily give you speedy results, but you have to admit -- he can run for hours and hours. And that isn't just because of the smaller body frame.

In the case of the sprinter, he works out and gets his upper body beefed up because he needs to burst from the starting line and finish as fast as he can. For him, everything is in the balance. And you know for a fact, when you hire a sprinter, he's guaranteed to perform. You betcha he will, but if you don't perfectly calibrate his work-life balance and pay for his exotic vacations to the Bahamas (slight exaggeration), you may have to start looking for the next sprinter. And even if you make sure all his needs are taken care of within the best of your ability, he might decide to compete in another race because they offer the bigger rewards.

The marathoner – he can’t afford to have all that extra weight on him. He needs to carry his 150 pounds for a total of 42 km. So, whatever extra muscle mass and fat he has, he sheds along the way. For him, it’s about consistency. Our little guy, he may be slow but he’s steady. His focus is on picking up new skills and throttling the steepest learning curves. He couldn’t care less about how much he’s getting paid.

Strength or endurance? Tough call

When you're starting out, you can't really afford to spend $30,000 to hire superhuman sales people, designers or content marketers. But you still have to get these things done, without compromising on quality.

Wait, did you hear that?

What's the bustle coming through the door from those fashion and finance firms? Oh yeah, that's right! Interns! These guys are notorious for taking in interns, and not just because smartly dressed youngsters clutching clipboards look good on their team. It's because these interns are high on value, low on demands, offer fresh perspectives, never run out of crazy ideas and the really ambitious ones just want to learn as much as they can.

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Now, picture one of these bright guys on your team. Sure, they need some time to get in-synch but you would be surprised how quickly they go from bumbling bees to business brilliant.

"I started out as a web developer intern at Profoundis - creators of Vibe, an app which aggregates intelligence about prospective customers. This was in 2013. I was familiar with the technologies they used but that was the extent of my knowledge. I struggled and learnt as much as I could and a chunk of my code was used to build the app at the time. A year later, I co-founded DoSelect. I have four interns on my team now. Why? Because my first lessons on building a successful company came from Profoundis," says Sanket Saurev, Co-founder of DoSelect, which builds comprehensive testing tools that make hiring easier for companies.

The rules of startup marketing keep changing, there's no denying that. A few years ago, companies were apprehensive about having a website for their product, and social media marketing was seen as a joke. The only way to stay on top of current trends is by having a kickass team. In fact, it's the only thing that matters. A good team helps you build a good project. A great team helps you build a dynasty.

The answer? Team genetics

Yes, you need sprinters to call those big shots, to help you see the big picture, motivate the rest of the team and step in when your numbers are slumping. But you need the marathoners too, to run rapid tests, fill out those tedious Excel sheets, to write creative blog articles, and whatever it is that is needed because everyone else is stretched thin and is already wearing as many hats as they can within the team.

Every startup needs at least one marathoner per 10 sprinters. So the next time you're recruiting, you may want to also take a look at the "I'm here now. I'm in for anything" along with the, ‘Been there, done that’ guys. Why? Because we're here for the long run, and we're just getting started.

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