Resource Spotlight: TechGen
GH: What is TechGen?
Sarah: TechGen connects thousands of undergrad and grad students with Massachusetts’ innovative tech companies through internships, skill-building events and programming. We’re a scrappy, non-profit startup.
GH: What is your name and role there?
Sarah: I’m Sarah Sherburne, I am the Founder of TechGen and a Program Manager at the New England Venture Capital Assocation (N-E-V-C-A)
GH: How did TechGen get started?
Sarah: The NEVCA, with support from MassTech Collaborative, brought me on to build a massive, scalable, sustainable program to help students find internships at local tech startups. We bootstrapped and hacked together our first platform to test the model in 2015 and when we’d engaged over 1500 students and 100 local tech companies, we realized that we’re onto something BIG!
GH: How did you build your team?
Sarah: It’s been pretty serendipitous! I connected with Ben Bungert through a NEVCA intern, he came on as a Brand Manager and I’ve never let him go. He saw the mission, had excellent ideas and feedback and he’s been a part of the team since. Ben’s putting the finishing touches on his bachelors at Northeastern and will join full time in June. Obviously when we’re looking for interns, we use TechGen.
GH: Startup life is full of failures and ‘make it work’ moments – can you identify how you bounced back from one of yours?
Sarah: Learning to fail and recover gracefully has been challenging! It’s a startup truism that failure is inevitable and that it’s an essential part of being an entrepreneur, but I didn’t fully understand until I really experienced it with a marketing campaign that flopped. Initially, I tried to pretend it never happened and distanced myself from it. Then a colleague helped me pause and take time to look at what my goals had been, what I did, what I achieved/didn’t achieve and learn from that failure. The beauty of startups is that we can fail pretty quietly. That doesn’t make it easier! But it definitely makes pushing boundaries and trying new things easier!
GH: What did you learn from your first year that is helping to improve the new platform?
Sarah: Wow, so many things! The new platform wouldn’t exist if we hadn’t asked for feedback at every step of the way! I also learned so much about myself and about building a company. I learned to be brave, to ask for feedback (and how to ask better questions), things to consider planning events, how to build a community, how to manage people, how to market TechGen and describe the problem we solve, how to ask for help… I tell people that building TechGen has been the hardest thing I’ve ever done but I’ve learned more than I could imagine, had so much fun and met the coolest people.
GH: What has the Boston ecosystem provided you?
Sarah: MassTech has been incredibly supportive and helpful, as has the NEVCA Board – we’re lucky to have an awesome group of serial entrepreneurs and investors who give guidance and feedback and are our champions. I’ve also relied heavily on some advisors like Eric Paley, Mike Troiano, Steve Kraus, Jodi Goldstein, C.A. Webb, Keith Cline… the list goes on! TechGen’s mission resonates with so many and I’ve found that the community’s support has been hugely motivating and helped us to engage more companies and students.
GH: What is the Boston ecosystem lacking from your perspective?
Sarah: I think we as a community do a pretty good job paying it forward, but I think we could always improve. I’m a big believer in karma and helping others out as much as possible so the more our ecosystem does that, the stronger we’ll be.
GH: What is the best/worst advice you’ve been given along the way?
Sarah: The best piece of advice I received is own it. Fake it till you make it if you have to, but own everything you are and all the cool things you’re doing! I didn’t realize that I was a founder until someone told me – and it made so much sense! I am the Founder and CEO of TechGen and I should exude all the confidence that comes along with that.
GH: What was the best thing that happened to you last year?
Sarah: AH! That’s hard! Last year was a HUGE year! We launched our beta, I met incredible students, companies and movers-and-shakers, Scott Kirsner re-tweeted me! Haha, but really! It feels impossible to name just one thing. A highlight would definitely be when I was at Urban Beach Bash, our annual summer kickoff party, and a student from Carnegie-Melon came up to me. He said he was interning for a startup and came to Boston with zero friends and then he found TechGen, which immediately plugged him into a community and gave him a bunch of great events to go to. It was such an awesome moment because we’d been working so hard and in that conversation, I saw exactly how we’d made a difference for this student.
GH: What does the future hold for TechGen?
Sarah: Our vision from the start was to build a massive, scalable, sustainable program. We started with Boston/Cambridge and we’re actively branching out to include more of the State and I hope to expand beyond! And we’ll continue to grow our team as we do that. The future holds a LOT!
Get that dream internship now by checking out TechGen’s brand new website: https://www.thetechgen.org/
More about NEVCA here.