Summertime traditionally signals the annual ritual of students searching for that elusive internship to propel career aspirations through relevant work experience. This year, the Lundquist Center for Entrepreneurship and RAIN (Regional Accelerator and Innovation Network) Eugene teamed up to connect UO students—including four from the Lundquist College of Business and three from the computer and information sciences department— to current and former RAIN startups for internship opportunities.
As the recognized launch pad for the region, RAIN Eugene annually runs a 16-week startup accelerator to propel early-stage companies to success. Running its fourth cohort this summer, the 2016 RAIN Eugene accelerator class is working with eight local companies, including three with Lundquist College of Business ties: Animosa, an outdoor feminine product company headed by recent graduates, Kate Blazer, MBA ’16, and Maggie Perdzock, MBA ’16; BluPrint Lifestyle, a bike accessories company founded by recent undergraduate business students Thomas Blasé ’16, Tyler Kamerer ’16, and Alex Reinhart ’16, and undergraduate product design grad Siohban Mead ’16; and Trail Supply Company, a logistics company for thru-hiking founded by junior business student Spencer Holton and geology student Jori Umphress.
“The idea for starting an informal internship program with RAIN Eugene initially stemmed from an intrinsic interest in providing additional support for Lundquist Center for Entrepreneurship companies going through this year’s RAIN Eugene cohort, “ said Kate Harmon, undergraduate program manager for the center. As Joe Maruschak (executive director of RAIN Eugene) and I discussed the opportunity further, we quickly recognized the wider benefit of opening this opportunity up to more UO students to provide meaningful work experience and connection to the local startup economy.”
Through a series of coordinated networking events, interested UO students were vetted and interviewed by RAIN Eugene companies. Six current or former RAIN Eugene cohort startups selected UO students for their internships.
One of those students was Josephine Le, who had the opportunity to work for Asterism, a consumer healthcare startup that formulates, produces, and markets medical-grade nutricosmetics.
“When I first started at Asterism, I knew nothing about the cosmeceutical industry,” said Le. “I have worked with technology-focused startups in the past, but it was great to learn how a product gets manufactured, how the brand gets developed, and a lot of other factors that come into play in a business-to-consumer company. When it all comes down to it, my internship at Asterism has helped me in my career goals by allowing me to learn more about digital marketing, brand strategy, e-commerce, and a lot more.”
For local startups, the advantage of having experienced UO interns embedded in their companies for the summer has been invaluable. Greta Geankoplis, CEO of RAIN Eugene cohort company Stratus Digital Systems, is working with two UO students—senior business major Austin Rieger and sophomore computer and information sciences major Joseph Livini. Stratus Digital Systems is a blockchain and distributed ledger technology company.
“Both Austin and Joseph participate fully in company tech and market research meetings. I meet weekly one-on-one with each and adapt assignments to their interests as well as to areas of opportunity for development. Both attend RAIN sessions that we collectively feel are important and relevant to their internship,” said Rieger.
For serial entrepreneur Todd Edman, CEO of Waitrainer, a 2015 RAIN Eugene company that systematizes training for restaurant workforces, the advantage of working with UO senior computer and information science major Byron Fleming has been substantial.
“Bryon is rocking,” said Edman. “If all goes as planned, I will hire him on full time at the end of the fall term when he graduates.”
Harmon said the Lundquist Center for Entrepreneurship hopes to increase by three-fold the number of UO interns in RAIN Eugene–affiliated companies next summer, as well as identify a funding partner to provide stipends for the students.