This past summer I worked for a start-up called SumZero. Located in New York City’s Flatiron District, in what is often now referred to as Silicon Alley, SumZero is a social community for professional investors.
On Wall Street, there are sell-side and buy- side investors or analysts. Sell-side analysts are paid to conduct research on companies and then publish their research. On the other hand, buy -side analysts are paid to conduct research on companies but then invest in their own ideas. Thus, wouldn’t investors prefer to get their research from analysts who are actually investing in their own ideas?! Well, because buy-side analyst do not get paid to publish their research, there was no incentive for them to publish it–until SumZero entered the picture. Buy-side professionals apply to join the SZ community; each application is carefully reviewed to ensure the applicant has enough experience on the buy-side. If accepted, which is not any easy feat, members submit two of their own investment ideas a year and in exchange gain access to others’ ideas.
Launched in 2008 by Divya Narendra (who co-founded HarvardConnect, with Cameron and Tyler Winklevoss) and Aalap Mahadevia, the service already boasts over 8,000 members. The SumZero team is small and close knit. It consists of two engineers (one back end, one front end), a head of product development, an HR SVP and CEO Divya Narendra. The chic open office boasts sliding glass doors, whiteboards, a DJ booth and a colossal LCD TV in the center of the office, surrounded by sleek gray couches and bar stools.
My internship was dynamic in that consisted of two very important, yet different tasks. I spent the first half of my summer at SumZero “wireframing.” Wireframes are outlines or designs of what a webpage will look like. Having never wireframed before, I quickly learned what went into designing a webpage, and what user interface issues were important and therefore needed to be considered. In addition to designing the appearance, I was also responsible for conducting the research on what fields should be included on the webpage. My tasks ranged from creating new forms that allow members to submit research on various types of asset classes, to assisting in redesigning member profiles to better capture information and to simply make it look, well, cooler.
For the second half of my internship I took on a marketing project focusing on member engagement. My day consisted mainly of setting up calls and meetings, during which I would demo the site and work on engaging new and existing members.
Working at a small start-up provided with me with insight into the inner workings of a business and the daily problems businesses have to tackle. Just as important, I had the opportunity be a part of what is arguably the most important part of ensuring a business grows and improves: innovation. Having worked on both the product development side of the business and the marketing side, I learned and actively participated in developing new products to serve our customers better as well as how to interact with those customers. And though I have never worked in the corporate world, this experience revealed the many merits of working at a start-up, where the environment is laid back, you have more autonomy and where wearing shorts and a t-shirt to work is the norm.
Photo Credit: Hazey Jana