My name is Shaun Rong, a second-year PhD student studying Materials Science and Engineering at MIT. I participated in Ventureships program last semester, and I want to share my experience and lessons I learned with you.
At the start of my second semester at MIT, I was lost. I wasn't sure which direction I should be heading at MIT, nor did I know what I wanted to do after finishing my PhD. So I talked to many friends who were already working. One of them, who is now working in BCG Beijing office as an associate, suggested me to try out Ventureships Program. He was the previous president of MIT Ventureships Club. Soon, I got in contact with Zhibiao, the current president of the club, and luckily, I was paired with LTG, a promising mobile education startup.
Elad Shoushan, founder and CEO of LTG and a first-year Sloan MBA student, is truly inspiring. He designed a special business development project for me and mentored our entire team all the way. During the program, I learned a lot from Elad and developed great relationship with him. I truly wanted this company to be successful, so I applied for a summer internship at an angel investment fund in Beijing on purpose, in hope of finding investments for LTG. It was a no-harm trial and I wasn’t expecting much, so I pitched to every angel investor and VC partner I can reach out to and let them know how promising LTG is. When I got back to Boston, I got an email from one of the angel investors, and the answer was yes.
Bursting with excitement, Elad and I flew back to Beijing, we negotiated the term sheet and the valuation before signing it. I was thrilled that this was something I’ve done singlehandedly by myself! But what I valued the most are actually the lessons I learned through this journey and I want to share them with you:
1. Always prepare for alternatives during negotiation. Even though you may not have one, act as if you have one and stay cool.
2. Be fearless. It is frustrating to do business. Prepare yourself for fifty no’s before getting one yes.
In addition to getting the fund, I am also leading the marketing team for our newly published Chinese App. Amongst the twenty applicants, I recruited two young enthusiasts who had startup experiences beforehand. Amazingly, we got over 150 downloads on the third day after it was published in App Store. I learned several lessons on leadership through this experience:
1. Work hard as a leader! You don’t want your team members to feel that you are the boss who transfers all the work onto them and taste the harvest of their hard work.
2. Design good incentive mechanism. The system should be transparent and easily quantified. For example, I set a budget and told my team members that they get $0.15 as bonus for every download they generate.
3. Put yourself in their shoes. Figure out what they want most and give it to them. I learned that these ambitious young entrepreneurs care more about the experience and connections than money. I told them they should use this opportunity to get connected to the industry as much as possible.
4. If someone proves he is trustworthy, trust him to let him handle the work individually. I thank Elad for trusting me and giving me much responsibility. Now I aspire to do the same to my marketing team members.
5. Develop great work relationship and friendship with your team members. You never know when and how your team members can help you.
Our business is still going on now and everyday is filled with excitement and hard work. None of this could have happened to me if either Elad or I hadn’t participated in the Ventureships Program. Ventureships Program is a great platform for students and startups and I hope it will be even more successful! Best wishes for MIT Ventureships Club!