Startup internships ‘reward curiosity’

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Stephanie Mitchell/Harvard Staff Photographer

3 min read

Harvard students seeking an enriching, hands-on experience should look beyond the largest companies and consider startups in their summer planning, according to participants in a new internship program who say they benefited from a high level of independence and the encouragement of strong mentors.

In collaboration with Matrix Partners, Harvard’s Office of Technology Development (OTD) has created an internship program that places students in software development roles at Matrix portfolio companies. The internship is now running for a second year and accepting applications via Crimson Careers. The program helps Harvard students access paid summer internships that provide a meaningful startup experience, combined with an introduction to venture capital and ongoing mentorship.

The internship program is part of OTD’s Innovating Together initiative, a broader outreach effort that seeks to highlight pathways for startup formation and technology commercialization, with a special emphasis on engaging students and members of Harvard’s research community from populations that are underrepresented in these fields.

“OTD has strong external relationships that create pathways for Harvard’s research to be translated into impactful products. Through this internship with Matrix, we hope to also help students pursue careers at startups and learn about venture capital. In doing so, we have an opportunity to draw on the diversity of the Harvard student body to potentially help change the face of startups, venture capital, and the tech industry as a whole,” said Sam Liss, executive director of strategic partnerships in OTD.

The internship program incorporates mentoring by both OTD business development staff and the investment team at Matrix. “That brings me great joy,” said Diana Berlin ’09, M.B.A. ’13, who is a partner at Matrix and oversees the program with her colleague Stan Reiss, MBA ’00. She hosted group mentoring sessions throughout the summer, having joined Matrix herself in early 2021 after roles at Microsoft, Kickstarter, SoundCloud, and Quip, which was acquired by Salesforce.

“I knew I had to get involved in this program, because I have just had the time of my life working in startups,” Berlin said. She emphasized that startups tend to hire on the basis of talent and potential rather than on a strict set of prerequisites.

“One of the great things about startups is that they really reward curiosity,” Berlin said. “You can learn through the content of the role, but you can also learn whether startups are for you. A three-month internship is a great opportunity to just test that hunch and explore the thing that has been on your mind. This is your chance to try.”