This blog post was written by Sarah Rudd, Sage Corps' summer marketing intern.
At Sage Corps, we strongly believe that interning with a tech startup can be an invaluable, life-changing experience. Nothing makes us happier than knowing that our fellows have meaningful, eye-opening experiences in the field of entrepreneurship. Take Tudor Dorobantu, for example. He’s a Romanian student studying at Boston University who came to Chicago to work with a startup, Sente, and was then sent to Istanbul to help train international startups for the company's summer “Internet of Things” program.
Sounds pretty cool, right? I sat down with Tudor to hear more about his experience.
According to the company's Facebook page, Sente is “an 1871 Chicago based international accelerator for startups in Turkey, Nordics, Balkans and other emerging startup ecosystems.” It was founded in 2008 by Serhat Cicekoglu (CEO). Gerod Carfantan joined the company in July 2016, as the COO, and the company now has grown to six employees.
Sente helps provide incubation and business development services for startups. The company launches a series of programs for selected startups to help them become successful businesses. Sente is currently running its “Internet of Things” program, which is in its sixth week out of 12. In August it will launch its “LandInChicago” program, followed by its “New Mobility” program in September. Through its programming, the company has helped more than two hundred startups grow and develop.
A bit more about Tudor
Born and raised in Bucharest, Romania, Tudor is a rising senior at Boston University studying Finance and Information Systems with a minor in Computer Science. Tudor is the VP of Tutoring for the university’s Financial Modeling club, and he credits his involvement with this organization for providing him with helpful experience in financial modeling.
Tudor felt that an American internship would be beneficial to his career, and that’s when he found Sage Corps.
“I got an email from Sage Corps and was intrigued. I liked the idea of being paired with someone with experience in the field.”
He ultimately applied to the Sage Corps Summer 2017 program in Chicago and was placed as an analyst intern with Sente.
From Chicago to Istanbul
Tudor joined Sente right as the team was leaving for Istanbul to kick off its “Internet of Things” program.
“[Sente] selected 11 companies, and the program kicked off in Istanbul. We gather the entrepreneurs from all over the world, but a lot are from Istanbul and throughout Europe. We had a few workshops for the companies, outlined the expectations of the six weeks, we started to coach them how to build a business plan and financial model, and we gave them a crash course on how to pitch their idea. After that me and my coworkers helped with refined deliverables, financial model and presentations and due diligence.”
Tudor also explained that his role in Istanbul was to help give real advice to real startups and help them build their businesses.
“I was there to aid the entrepreneurs with questions regarding the deliverables, and help them complete them. One bigger task was looking at comparable companies with public information to help value the companies we work with. It doesn’t have to be perfect but we look at the analogs as a baseline to help model the business itself with revenue and costs. I also helped with qualitative research, for example on the industry, using frameworks, a general outlying description of their market (business model - B2B or B2C, and revenue model (subscription, sell product once). Great professional experience in dealing with clients and resolving their problems with solutions you come up with. Monday through Friday from 8am to 6pm that was what I did, I counseled them. ”
From both his time in Istanbul and with Sente in general, Tudor has already been able to identify the benefits of working for a globalized startup. Prior to working with Sente, Tudor held a corporate internship with KPMG Romania, and he was able to notice an immediate difference in the responsibilities he was given and the room for potential growth in each position.
“Here I am needed. My superiors look at me and see how I perform and can see that I’m capable; I’m able to counsel the startups and advise them on issues regarding their business. In Istanbul I started coaching the entrepreneurs and one of them came to me and his business model didn’t fit for the US at all - he was Serbian. It was a flood warning program that I didn’t think would work in the US because we already have billion of dollars invested in our own warning programs. He needed help, and I came and talked to him and gave him some ideas like, “why don’t you put apply it to warning systems at colleges and universities?” At the end of the day, he said that I gave him confidence to continue on with his idea. I made an impact on a real person.”
Just as Tudor only had good things to say about his experience with Sente, Gerod, the company’s COO, had similar praise for Tudor. He said,
"We see sente.link as the connection point between startups, investors and institutions in different parts of the world. So, it’s important for us to have people on the team that can bring in a diverse experience and diverse cultural backgrounds. As an international student with life experience in both the US and Romania, Tudor is a great fit. He’s also been able to contribute immediately – as a startup ourselves and the fact we work with so many startups, it’s given him the ability to both contribute with his strong analytical skills and also learn quite a bit about a lot of different sides of the business, plus experience the energy of the City of Chicago. Overall I think it’s been a great experience for both Sente and for Tudor."
When I asked how his experience with Sente, specifically in Istanbul, may have affected his future career aspirations, Tudor said,
“I definitely want to work somewhere in the VC field - I know it’s very competitive - but depending on what types of skills and professional connections I build here, hopefully it will help me get there!”
He also said that is is now more interested in a future position that involves working with people.
“I was always a numbers guy, but working with people is definitely more interesting connecting with the entrepreneurs. In terms of professional skill development, it was really important for me to start developing skills related to client interactions. With a finance or consulting track, a lot of my work will involve client interactions, and you will need the ability to effectively and succinctly communicate your ideas. It’s all about communication.”
We are excited to have played a role in Tudor’s internship experience, and are excited to continue to help our fellows to reach a new level of professional growth, and a widened exposure to the globalized workplace.