We had the chance to catch up with 22 year old Gagan Biyani who is one of the founders of Startup Roots. Startup Roots is a non-profit fellowship program that aims to connect startups and internship seekers so the two can have an awesome summer together! Gagan was joined on the project by Ajay Kamat, Himani Amoli, Andrew Chen and Louis Hong who all have extensive passion and experience in the startup world.
Together they are giving both sides great opportunities and are looking to expand in the coming years.
What was everyone’s Background before Startup Roots?
Since Startup Roots is a non-profit, all of us have other startups that we spend most of our days on. I’ll continue explaining this in Question #3.
I, Gagan Biyani, graduated from UC Berkeley in 2008 with a degree in Economics. I worked at Accenture as a Strategy Consultant for 1 1/2 years before leaving my job to pursue my startup full-time. While at Accenture, I started writing part-time for TechCrunch’s mobile site, MobileCrunch, which I still contribute to today. Currently, alongside Startup Roots, I’m co-founder of Udemy, a startup focused on democratizing online education.
Ajay Kamat is the founder of micromobs, a dead simple way to communicate with your groups. He graduated from UC Davis with a degree in Biological Systems Engineering and a minor in technology management. After a short stint in the biotech industry he followed his true passion in the web space. He’s worked at Brocade as a project manager and also co-founded micromobs. Currently Ajay’s time is spent ridding the world of email threads with micromobs and by making startups more accessible to students through Startup Roots.
Himani Amoli graduated from UC Davis in 2007. She worked in marketing at Integration Associates, a Sequoia funded company, and as a Product Manager at i2we, Inc an IDG backed startup before she decided to pursue her own startup. Alongside connecting students to startups via Startup Roots, she’s the co-founder of micromobs which will be the demise of the obnoxious email thread. In her spare time she also volunteers as a mentor for BUILD.org.
Andrew Chen, a Startup Roots co-founder, is also currently the founder of SnapItTo.Me, a photo marketplace that seeks to transform how photography is bought and sold globally. Prior to his becoming a full-time entrepreneur, he spent 5 years at Accenture, as a Manager in their Strategy Consulting Group. During that time he also co-founded a not-for-profit startup called newSpark Group, providing consulting services to international development organizations and social enterprises. Andrew graduated from Yale University in 2003 with a degree in Economics.
Lou Hong is currently managing several projects including a startup resource website, a social entrepreneurship project promoting fair trade goods (cupsmitten.com), and his full-time job, as head of Strategy and Operations for gameattain.com – a discovery engine for gamers. A graduate of the University of Washington with degrees in Business Administration and Political Science, he comes to Startup Roots with over four years of Management Consulting experience at Deloitte Consulting and two years of Marketing Operations and Strategy at a JP Morgan Chase (Washington Mutual) Card Services.
Could you explain who Startup Roots is for and why?
Startup Roots is a simple concept: Startups apply. Interns apply. Startup Roots matches the best of each group together for an awesome summer!
Startup Roots also provides a crash course in startups for the summer, where speakers such as Steve Blank, Jeff Clavier and Vivek Wadhwa will talk on entrepreneurship, the history of startups and financing, among other topics. Startups that should apply are anywhere from early-stage (seed funding) to late-stage and should be able to provide a summer position for a Fellow for the summer with office space, mentoring, and a summer project for the Fellow. Compensation is not required by Startup Roots.
Fellows who are either in college or graduate school and are high-potential individuals should apply.
What’s wrong with other internship finder sites? Why are startups a good focus?
We’re more of a Fellowship program than an internship site. We hand-select the Fellows and the Startups so that they know the quality of the two are high and so Startups don’t have to spend as much time finding interns. Furthermore, for Fellows, we provide a summer-long introduction to startups. They’ll hear from speakers such as Adeo Ressi (8-time entrepreneur), Steve Blank (7-time entrepeneur), Jeff Clavier (Rock-star angel investor), and more.
Startups are a good focus because there is a major need for startups to obtain help over the summer, since startups can always use extra help. More importantly, for Fellows, startups are exciting and willing to provide them with a full internship experience. Fellows will get to work on real projects and go home with a great understanding of the startup world and how to get involved. Finally, they will be provided with community events and a speaker series throughout the summer, so this is more like a full internship experience than an internship placement site.
Where did the idea come from? What made you guys take the leap into it?
All of us are currently entrepreneurs and deeply involved in the Silicon Valley startup community. A few of my co-founders were thinking of ways to find additional help for the summer and quickly realized that there was no great way to find a summer intern. Furthermore, they realized that students rarely have the opportunity to work in a startup over the summer. They came to me and another one of our co-founders and we immediately decided this was a great idea. There is a need in the market and we’re trying to fill it with a high-quality summer program for college students interested in startups.
Is there a revenue model behind Startup Roots?
Startup Roots is a not-for-profit institution and has no intention of making money. We do request a $1,000 donation from participating startups in order to operate the program. All money goes towards operating the program and all time by co-founders is on a voluntary basis.
What are your future plans?
Right now, we’re very focused on matching high-quality students with fantastic startups. We’ve received over 90 student applications and have accepted many startups. In the future, we may expand Startup Roots into multiple locations throughout the country, but that is not in the plans until next summer.