An Outsider's Insider Perspective on Startups

I found my way to Startup Institute New York the way many of our students do -  I was unhappy in my career as a fundraiser and was looking for a new challenge. The idea of working for a startup had been percolating in the back of my mind for a while, thanks to inspiration from a friend,who had recently launched his own company. (If you identify as LGBT or are an ally and looking to have an awesome time, check out The Welcoming Committee).

I found myself mesmerized by my friend’s talks about tackling challenges unique to TWC.  Then came the reading and the researching and everything I encountered only served to deepen my interest. More specifically, the things that most excited me about startups are:

1. Lean methodology : startup founder :: scientific method : scientist. As the son of a nerdy chemist and a former biology major myself, I have always had a deep respect for the scientific method. The lean start up mentality of working to solve a problem through iterative testing appeals to that part of my brain.

2. Startups move fast. In my career as a fundraiser, I had worked for small non-profits and larger institutions. Reflecting on those experiences, I realized that the fast pace and nimble nature of small non-profits was a better fit for me, and I see that same value for speed in the startup community.

3. Startups do good.  As a former activist, doing good with my career has always been important to me. Like many of my colleagues in the non-profit world, I was worried that I would leave that behind if I ever pursued a corporate career. However, once I started learning more about the startup world, I did not have to look very far to find companies with a strong commitment to doing good. 

So after months of reading, reflecting, and bugging my friends, all it took for me to take the plunge was a meeting with the New York Director Christina Wallace. Over coffee in Bryant Park, she confirmed my suspicions that a career pivot into the startup world would be an exciting and difficult challenge. Skip forward a few steps and here I am working as a part-time Operations Associate at Startup Institute New York. With almost three months under my belt, I could not be happier!

I have tried to keep pace with how fast the team moves, but what I am most struck by how much good this company does for people. They take their mission of helping career changers and recent graduates align passion with profession very seriously. Every time I think about Startup Institute, a simple phrase pops into my head, “We can help”. This is what CEO and co-founder, Aaron O’Hearn, said to me after I told him about my pending career change. 

As I hone my own skills, I am going to take to heart many lessons I have learned from Startup Institute. But more than any other, I will always be ready with an “I can help” attitude for anyone who wants to join me in my journey through the startup world.


Daniel Robinson is a recovering fundraiser and part-time Operations Associate for Startup Institute New York. Say hello to him on Twitter @danwithpride.