Jun 19 2013

Oh hi….

My name is Sam Gold, and I’m the newest intern here at Dashfire. I’ll be a junior down at Libertyville High School next year. From a very young age I’ve been entrepreneurial in nature, and the opportunity to work with everyone at Dashfire was one I couldn’t pass up. I’m thrilled to get started in the Chicago tech scene, and this internship is the perfect way to get involved.

Although I’m just starting out today, I’ve known Dashfire and Rick Desai for almost a year now. In my free time I run a subscription commerce site for foodies, and Dashfire developed Yumvelope 2.0 (http://yumvelope.com) In the past I’ve done online selling, app development, and now Yumvelope which has been online for over a year now. The opportunity to work with entrepreneurs from all backgrounds and types of businesses will undoubtedly prove invaluable as I continue in business.

I’m not the writing type so that’s all for now, but look out for me next time you’re in the office; I’d love to chat!

Jun 14 2013

Better than a Google Internship

Maybe it was just a coincidence, but three days before I started my internship with Dashfire, the movie The Internship was released. Vince Vaughn and Owen Wilson land internships at Google after losing their jobs as watch salesmen; hilarity ensues. Hilarity might be a strong word (I’d give the movie a B: funny but not hysterical). I left the theater wondering what the next ten weeks would hold. Would the other interns and I be forced to compete for full-time positions by playing Quidditch? Thankfully that’s not the case, although I did learn there were discussions of a Hunger Games style intern competition. I probably wouldn’t be here writing this post if that happened, considering my hand-to-hand combat skills are more than rusty.

Like Vaughn and Wilson’s characters, I didn’t see myself working in the heart of Chicago’s tech scene. I didn’t see myself working as a watch salesperson either. In high school, I packed my course schedule with extra math and science classes because that’s what I was good at. It probably didn’t help that since birth, someone has been telling me that those fields are lacking a strong female presence, and if I wanted any hope in ever finding a job, I’d pursue a math or science related career. Meanwhile, I spent most of my free time in inherently creative extracurriculars like orchestra and yearbook, which I viewed as hobbies and not viable career paths.

With these ideas engrained in my mind and an unhealthy obsession with both Grey’s Anatomy and Rudy, I decided to go to University of Notre Dame to become a doctor. Horrified at the mere idea of taking General Chemistry Principles, I promptly realized the medical field wasn’t for me. Two years later (and after many appointments with Bridget at the Career Center), I’m double majoring in graphic design and applied mathematics.

I thought I wanted to cure cancer and be the first Asian-American Surgeon General. My past self would probably be horrified to find out that I’m spending the summer reading tech blogs and wireframing instead of administering polio shots in Haiti or shadowing a doctor at Northwestern Memorial. I want to help make someone’s idea into the next big thing and that’s what we’re doing at Dashfire. I’d also like to meet recent boy band phenomenon One Direction and if this internship can pave the way towards that goal too, then this summer is shaping up to be the best one yet.

May 31 2013

How Are Things Going?

Seems like a simple question. But as an early stage entrepreneur when asked this question in reference to my company “I have absolutely no idea” is the only answer can give with any confidence.

Why? Because “It’s going really, really well” is a lie and anything I say through tears is too dramatic.

There was a day in early November when my site traffic doubled because my mother-in-law and her two sisters figured out what my site was called. That night, I was asked “How are things going?”

“My uniques have doubled in the past 24 hours” I answered through tears.

Here’s the thing though, I have come to realize that I am not alone  “having lunch with some VCs later this week” is meeting friend Victor Carter at Chick-Fil-a “been talking to some Angels” is just praying and “we’re launching our product next week” means throwing a laptop out the window.

But in a similar vein, “start-up fail crazy me go” from an over caffeinated entrepreneur wearing their shirt backward is someone whose team you may want to join.

But I have absolutely no idea what’s going on.

 

– Tom Doar

May 15 2013

What I’ve Learned

It’s been a year since I started interning at Dashfire. I went in to my first day thinking I knew a lot about startups and entrepreneurship, but when Rick Desai started talking about A/B testing, SaaS and the real difference between b2b and b2c, I nodded my head, went back to my desk, and Googled..
I soon found out that Rick wasn’t expecting me to know everything, and I quickly let go of my fear of feeling stupid. I learned: it’s better to ask a question, no matter how dumb you think you sound, than to pretend you know what you’re talking about.
Literally days after I got hired, Rick and I started discussing what I wanted to be when I grew up. I didn’t know at the time, but Rick’s dedication to my future and constant mentorship over the past year helped me explore different career options. I’ve learned how effective getting ahead of the game is, especially when looking for a job. (p.s. Rick is nominated for BIC’s Mentor of The Year Moxie Award!)
I’ve developed a love for startups. I’ve always been an “idea person”, so I was immediately attracted to startups, but over the past year I’ve learned that having a great idea is only the first step. You’ve got to be willing to execute the idea. You’ve got to have a great product. You’ve got to be an incredible networker. You have to have the ability to build a team. And, above all: you have to have heart. “We like to glamorize the ramen diet, couch surfing lifestyle, but do you really want to lose your salary, health benefits, free time, and sanity? You will run into brick walls every day.  If you can’t find a way to run through, around, or over them – this is not the career for you.” 
I’ve come to appreciate networking, and learned that being friendly, making connections, and maintaining solid relationships is a top priority. Attending events and Dashfire meetings, working with entrepreneurs and taking all events as opportunities (rather than just an open bar) to learn and meet people has been beneficial to my professional and personal growth.
I’ve learned that this quote is totally true: “You can achieve anything, if you don’t care about who gets the credit.” The startup space has taught me to promote people and things I love. You shouldn’t do everything for the sole purpose of making money or getting recognized, but simply because you genuinely care about them. I’ve written blogs about LiquidSpaceKanguDev BootcampSideCarCheeky ChicagoGrainstack and more, not because I was hoping to get a job or because I was getting paid to do so, but simply because I think they are great companies that deserve to be heard about.
I’ve written, a lot. I’ve learned that blogging is crucial to creating a unique brand image. Since day one, Rick has encouraged me to write. I’ve tried to develop a unique tone, and now have a portfolio of writing samples, which is an added bonus to my resume. Writing weekly blogs has taught me the importance of research in order to stay relevant. I’ve learned that it’s not just about posting great content, but posting great content at the right time in order to engage and entertain your target.
I’ve learned that I work best in environments where people are constantly encouraging each other. All companies should strive to create and maintain a supportive culture. This allows people to take risks, which is key to being a successful entrepreneur. Dashfire prides itself on meeting with and providing guidance to anyone and everyone. While this could be considered a huge waste of time, it’s their investment in Chicago and the growing tech community.
I was challenged.. and I liked it. Interning in such a fast-paced, constantly changing industry was a little difficult to get used to, but becomes addictive after a while. I learned that I like learning and want to continue to learn. I never want a job where I’ll be doing the same, repetitive, unchallenging thing every day.
I’ve learned to have fun (at work). My internship experiences have the bar for my first job out of college. I want to love my job, and loving your job means two things: you’re passionate about the work you’re doing, and passionate about the people you’re doing it with.
Best year ever.

May 10 2013

The Best Beer I’ve Ever Had

On Tuesday, I was watching the Blackhawks game at Pippen’s Tavern (great spot). A guy came to our table and said, “Hey guys, I work for Pabst, and I’d like to buy you a beer!” It was awesome, and even more awesome when we realized that he was buying the entire bar a beer. I tweeted a photo, along with “Guy from @PabstBlueRibbon just bought the entire bar a beer!”

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Later that night, we bumped into each other as we were leaving the bar. I thanked him for the beer, let him know that I had tweeted him, and said that hopefully he would get a promotion or something. He laughed, shook my hand, and introduced himself. “I’m Kevin, Vice President of Pabst.” The guy standing next to him also introduced himself: “John, President.” I was entrepreneur-struck.

We started talking, and they asked me my story. It was one of those elevator pitch moments, which is totally nerve racking. I told them I was graduating from DePaul in June, that I’m currently an intern at a couple startup companies, and I’m looking for a job in community management/customer experience in NYC.  John then asked me what my dream job would be, and I told him that I’d like to run social media for Pabst. I’d like to create and manage campaigns, generate content, engage with users, and create a strategy so customer-focused that when someone tweets at @PabstBlueRibbon like I just did, they would have already been responded to.

“See.. This is what I was talking about,” John said to Kevin. “We don’t need to have all of our social media people in LA, they can be anywhere.” I got Kevin’s contact information and sent him an email the next day. Who knows if I’ll hear back from him, but Tuesday night was the perfect example of why you should get an internship: TO LEARN.

The past year of working in startups has taught me a ton about social media and the importance of creating a strong online presence. If a company does something remarkable, make a remark about them! Always promote brands who deserve being promoted. It means more to them than you think.

Attending events, networking, sitting in on Dashfire meetings, being introduced to CEO’s, founders and aspiring entrepreneurs has helped me grow as a professional. I’ve developed strong communication skills. Because of this, I was able to approach Kevin and tell him about my tweet with ease, which lead into a meaningful conversation, and getting the VP of Pabst’s business card.

Bottom line: Take every opportunity to speak with someone, online and offline. Don’t pass something up because you don’t think it will be important. Don’t be too lazy for a phone call. Don’t be too awkward to say Hello. Even if it’s a quick chat at an event, a brief phone call, a cup of coffee, a run-in at a bar, whatever.. building and maintaining relationships is something all entrepreneurs, job seekers, and people in general should do.

May 07 2013

Re-imagine Mother’s Day with Kangu

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Stuck on what to get mom this Sunday? I was too, until I found out about this..

In developing countries, 800 women die each day from pregnancy and childbirth because they can’t afford skilled medical care and a safe environment. Fortunately, this can be easily prevented.

Kangu.org, an innovative new crowdfunding site, has identified local non-profit hospitals and clinics in developing countries that offer the life-saving medical care that mama’s and their newborns need.

Casey Santiago created Kangu after having a safe delivery and healthy baby. “I couldn’t shake what I knew: that more than a quarter of a million women die each year because they lack access to the prenatal care and childbirth services that I had just received.”

For as little as $10, you’ll be able help a pregnant woman in need by giving her and her newborn access to clean, well-lit facilities and a caring, skilled staff. “This amount may seem low to some of us,” Casey says “but it is prohibitive to the over 2 billion women who shelter, feed and clothe their family on less than $2 a day.”

Through Kangu, you can search for stories and photos of these expecting mothers, choose a recipient, and contribute to healthy delivery and post-natal care. In turn, Kangu will send the recipient a Mother’s Day card with your message, letting her know of your gift and the mom-to-be will be funded in her honor.

After the fact, Kangu will send you updates on the mama you funded and her baby, and you can connect with other who have funded the same mama.

The Dashfire/Farshore team has created a team to fund Padma, a 20 year old woman from Nepal. Padma is a first-time mother-to-be who’s extremely excited and happy about her first pregnancy. Padma plans to deliver at Bayalpata Hospital, and will travel via jeep or ambulance there. Her baby is due on September 2nd.

Here’s the progress Kangu has made thus far. Forget flowers and candle, #givemotherhood!

Apr 30 2013

Want an internship?

It’s that time of year! What will you be doing this summer? Don’t be silly – get an internship! If you’re looking for an awesome learning experience, great mentors, and a fun work environment, check out these awesome startups:

 

Dashfire 

Dashfire invests in early stage startups via software development and business acceleration. They have over 30 portfolio companies, including Bucketfeet, Bloomboard, EverTrue, TableSAVVY, LoClean, and TheSpish. Dashfire is located in the heart of the Chicago startup scene; with space at 1871 and an office at 750 Orleans.

Dashfire looking 1 summer intern; compensation to be determined. 

The ideal candidate:

  • College student
  • Excited to learn about startups; driven, motivated, entrepreneurially-minded
  • Passionate and knowledgable about social media
  • A strong writer with plans of becoming stronger
  • Has excellent written and verbal skills with ability to communicated through various mediums
  • Reliable, hardworking, trustworthy, and fun

Responsibilities include:

  • Actively managing Dashfire’s Twitter and Facebook on a daily basis
  • Weekly blog posts with content relative to Dashfire and Chicago Tech Scene
  • Continue to develop Dashfire’s “Social Media Framework” for portfolio companies to build their social presence.
  • General assistance during Dashfire conferences/meetings with entrepreneurs
  • Taking initiative in implementing creative marketing strategies for Dashfire and portfolio companies
  • Attending events and networking on behalf of Dashfire team

Perks include: 

  • Working directly with Rick Desai and Kelsey Lutz; some of the best mentors out there
  • Endless networking opportunities and lots of face time with entrepreneurs
  • Attend basically any Chicago tech event you please; TechWeek, 1871 Office Hours, Built in Chicago events, Moxie Awards, etc.
  • Ability to work closely with several of Dashfire’s portfolio companies

Excited about Dashfire? Contact Rick for more information: rick@dashfire.com

 

TableSAVVY 

TableSAVVY is a Dashfire portfolio company. TableSAVVY.com provides discounted, last-minute reservations at over 30 Chicago restaurants. TableSAVVY has office space at 1871, but makes frequent trips to Dashfire headquarters.

TableSAVVY is looking for 1-3 interns for a 10 week program, minimum of 10 hours/week. 

The ideal candidate(s):

  • College student
  • Experienced in Marketing
  • Comfortable in sales environment both over the phone and in-person; either experienced with sales, or willing to quickly learn how to effectively sell
  • Excited about helping to grow a startup; driven, motivated, entrepreneurially-minded
  • Passionate about social media and has deep understanding of how to effectively use it
  • Excellent written and verbal skills with ability to communicated through various mediums
  • Loves Chicago’s food and drink culture
  • A strong writer with plans of becoming stronger
  • Reliable, hardworking, trustworthy, motivated
  • A fun, high-energy individual ready to be the face of TableSAVVY to customers

Responsibilities include:

  • Actively managing TableSAVVY’s Twitter, Facebook, and Instagram on a daily basis in order to drive more traffic to TableSAVVY.com
  • Weekly blog posts with content relative to the Chicago food scene
  • Sales: target potential restaurant partners
  • Manage existing partner restaurants

The Perks: 

  • Unique experience of working with TableSAVVY’s Director of Marketing and partner “Chicago Magazine” to help to coordinate marketing campaign
  • Opportunity to work directly with TableSAVVY’s technology partner (Dashfire) and participate in TableSAVVY’s development process
  • Will work directly day-to-day with the three TableSAVVY Co-Founders
  • Will be able to participate in TableSAVVY meetings, and will have to opportunity to have an early influence on the TableSAVVY’s strategic development
  • Access to great mentors with years of experience in startups, entrepreneurship, marketing and technology through TableSAVVY, Chicago Magazine and Dashfire
  • Attend networking events and make great connections in Chicago Tech Scene

Internship is unpaid, but intern will be eligible to be compensated for any transportation costs involved, and have the chance to explore any Full Time/Part Time opportunities at TableSAVVY after their internship.

Excited about TableSAVVY? Contact Jeremy for more information:  Jeremy@tablesavvy.com

 

The Spish

The Spish is a Dashfire portfolio company. The Spish is a content site, which focuses to humanize athletes and explain the games they play so novices can become fans. The Spish uses fandom, it’s website, and social media to bring the stories to its audience.

The Spish is looking for 2 summer interns, minimum of 10 hours a week.  

The ideal candidate(s):

  • College student
  • Excellent written and verbal skills with ability to communicated through various
  • mediums
  • Interested in sports and media
  • Excited about helping to grow a startup; driven, motivated, entrepreneurially-minded
  • Personable, professional and friendly
  • Organized and reliable
  • Interested in implementing social media and has deep understanding of how to effectively use it

Responsibilities include:

  • Researching sports teams and players.  Primarily will be focused on pulling together content (photos, facts, interesting stories) on NFL teams and players. (Twitter and Instagram stalking capabilities are a plus!)
  • Assist existing social media campaigns as needed and update content on various mediums
  • Contributing ideas towards general marketing strategy and company vision

The Perks:

  • Unique experience of working directly with The Spish’s founder and advisors
  • Flexible work arrangement/schedule
  • Have direct input on the content that will be featured on the site.
  • Ability to receive college credit

Excited about The Spish? Contact Laura for more information: lmreardon@gmail.com

 

LoClean

LoClean is a Dashfire portfolio company. LoClean provides on-demand, reliable housekeeping services to Chicago and Evanston with web and mobile platforms that allow users to search, book, and pay for a housekeeper in under 90 seconds.

LoClean is looking for 1-3 summer interns. 

The ideal candidate(s):

  • College student
  • Experienced in Marketing
  • Excited about helping to grow a startup; driven, motivated, entrepreneurially-minded
  • Passionate about social media and has deep understanding of how to effectively use it
  • Excellent written and verbal skills with ability to communicated through various mediums
  • Personable, professional and friendly
  • Organized and reliable
  • A fun, high-energy individual ready to enhance LoClean’s customer service strategy

*Bi-Lingual (Spanish, Polish, Russian, German) would be awesome, but not required!

Responsibilities include:

  • Coordinating logistics and execution of home cleanings scheduled through LoClean’s platform
  • Actively managing  LoClean’s Twitter and Facebook daily basis in order to drive more traffic to LoClean.com
  • Assist existing Social Media Team in creating newsletters, social media content, and use engagement
  • Managing customer service functions, by interacting with LoClean users who have questions, comments, or concerns
  • Assisting in guerilla / “street” marketing efforts
  • Contributing ideas towards general marketing strategy and company vision

The Perks: 

  • Unique experience of working directly with LoClean’s founder, advisors, and close-knit LoClean team
  • Opportunity to work directly with LoClean’s technology partner (Dashfire) and participate in LoClean’s development process
  • Have direct input in overall strategy and execution of growing startup
  • Ability to receive college credit
  • Attend networking events and make great connections in Chicago Tech Scene

Excited about LoClean? Contact Jay for more information: info@LoClean.com

 

For tips on how to land these internships, read my post and feel free to contact me at alexxmiles@gmail.com if you have any questions.

 

Apr 18 2013

LoCleaning Up at BIC Launch!

LoClean pitched at Built In Chicago’s monthly launch last night! It was pouring outside, but, as usual, Rockit was packed with Chicago startup lovers.

For those of you who haven’t heard about LoClean, it’s a website that provides on-demand, reliable, background checked cleaning services to Chicago and Evanston. Whether you want a one-time clean or re-occurring housekeeper, LoClean will get the job done. In addition, LoClean offers refer-a-friend discounts of $10 credit, has excellent customer service, and are basically available whenever you need them via social media and/or email. Since LoClean’s launch on March 1st, they’ve cleaned hundreds of messy homes, apartments, and condos (including mine! twice!)

“I’m really messy and I hate cleaning,” Jay Gustafson, CEO and Founder of LoClean said. “Together, that’s a dangerous combo. After chatting with others and finding out I wasn’t the only one with this problem, I came up with the LoClean concept.”
When Jay came to Dashfire, the team loved the concept and knew Jay could get the job done. “He’s the ideal entrepreneur: he was dealing with a problem and instead of complaining about it, he solved it,” Rick said.

In addition to helping people like myself and Jay get top quality housekeeping when needed, LoClean helps independent housekeepers in Chicago find more work. Within the first month of launching, LoClean provided housekeepers with 10+ hours of additional work per week.

LoClean pitched at BIC to raise awareness, network, and seek mentorship on how to expand the business. If you want more info, contact info@loclean.com, or find them on Facebook or Twitter.

Thanks to BIC for another great event!

 

Apr 10 2013

I like you, Bonobos.

The search for the perfect job continues! This is one post of the series; where I’ll be sharing what I’ve learned, who I’ve talked to, and what I like until I (hopefully) get hired. Stay tuned.

Great customer service is the best way to acquire and retain customers. Bonobos is a men’s outfitter that demonstrates the definition of remarkable customer service.. which is one of the reasons I was so excited to visit their NYC office this winter. Rick, once again, connected me with an awesome person, Neerali Shah, who began working as a Bonobos customer experience rep out of college and has grown within the company since.

Bonobos calls their customer experience reps Ninjas, probably because they are the most kick-ass group of customer people out there. The company’s unique, innovative, ever-changing strategy is one that makes you never want to deal with any other customer service representative again. Through integrating over-the-phone, web, and online means, Bonobos’ Ninjas take the customer experience to the next level. By implementing an effective strategy that’s all about satisfying the customer, Bonobos is able to create long-lasting relationships and, in turn, lifetime customers.

A Ninja role would be a great fit for someone with a Communications Studies major/liberal arts degree. It’s a role that focuses heavily on what I’ve learned in school; building and maintaining relationships with clients and customers on a global level, customer acquisition, crisis management, consumption practices, writing, creative marketing techniques, etc etc etc. Outside of the classroom, working at Dashfire has given me hands-on experience with different startups, so I’ve had the opportunity to head creative marketing techniques. Through managing the social media accounts of  a variety of Dashfire’s partner companies, I’ve been able to increase awareness and turn first-timers users into (hopefully) life-long customers.
I’m interested in a Ninja role at Bonobos because it would be a great way to learn how a successful company functions from the ground up. Bonobos doesn’t implement a typical customer service strategy; therefore, Ninjas aren’t typical customer service people. In order to provide the best customer experience, your customer service representatives need to be fully emerged in all departments of the company, which is what Bonobos’ Ninjas do on a daily basis. In addition, Ninjas are given a lot of responsibility, and with that responsibility comes room for creativity. The Ninjas are trusted to make decisions they feel are necessary, which shows me that the company is made up of good, smart, people who respect each other’s decisions.
I really, really, really want to work at Bonobos because even though it’s not necessarily a startup (they’ve got over 150 employees), it still feels like one. Bonobos’ inspirational work environment is one that’s conducive to my learning style. I loved working at 1871, and now Dashfire’s new office space, because I feel welcome, comfortable, and inspired by the people around me. Because of this, I’m able to get a lot of work done.
Ok so.. what’s not to love? In addition to Bonobos providing customers with an amazing product and remarkable shopping experience, it’s employees with an awesome work environment, they provide potential employees (like me!) with the BEST interview process. Last Tuesday, I finished my application and sent it in. By Wednesday, I was contacted by a member of the team and by Friday, I had completed 3 Skype interviews. That easy. I respect Bonobos for this; it’s clear to me as an applicant that they truly care about building a great team. The experience I’ve had with Bonobos has been so enjoyable that even if I don’t get the job, I’ll still love and promote the company.
That’s why I like  love Bonobos.
p.s. Spring is here and Bonobos’ new line is sexy. You should visit Bonobos’ Guideshop at 845 W. Armitage if you haven’t already done so.

Apr 09 2013

UNCUBED Chicago

 

In December, I visited Wakefield Media in NYC and found out about UNCUBED events from co-founder Chris Johnson. If you’re unfamiliar, UNCUBED hosts events across the world dedicated to bringing together tech communities. It’s part job fair (but much cooler), part networking event (with Chicago’s coolest startups companies), part speakers (including Harper Reed!), part art show, part party and all fun.

On April 4th UNCUBED came to the River East Art Center. I was able to network with some great companies. If you’re looking for a job in Chicago and missed UNCUBED, I suggest checking out the following companies:

ParkWhiz

Train Signal

Mediafly

Springcm

 

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