This week Tracy Vo, a London Business School
MBA currently interning at Flat-Club
, tells us why she chose to intern at a start-up rather than a big bucks corporation.
Flat-Club, which was launched by London Business School alumnus Nitzan Yudan a few months ag
o, is aims to: "help students and alumni of top universities find short-term accommodation by leveraging existing social networks to create trust". She is also co-founder of DanceChaser.com!
California native Tracy graduated from Stanford with a BS in Management Science and Engineering in 2006 and is presently working on Business Development at Flat-Club. She talks us through working for a start-up, the beginning of her own networking site DanceChaser.com
and her favorite spot in London!
A bit about your background - what did you do after graduating from Stanford?
While I got an itch for entrepreneurship at Stanford, I wasn't sure how to get started right away, so I sought out learning sales processes and financial markets. I worked at two wealth management firms: first as a Financial Advisor at Citigroup - Smith Barney, then as a Sales Analyst and Project Manager at BNY Mellon.
In those five years, I got experience from my various roles on the sales team, which included strategy planning for the sales force. I became somewhat of an "intrapreneur" as I tried to solve problems by initiating, gathering support and rolling out projects that improved client retention and the bottom line. That process of initiating and creating something new was pretty addictive and empowering - I wanted to find ways to do more of it.
Why did you choose London Business School?
I first found out about London Business School when my supervisor told me that the school had been ranked the top Global MBA for three straight years in the Financial Times. Looking closer at the program, I realized that LBS would allow me the opportunity to take my career to the international level.
Being here now I am surrounded by a diverse student body and a supportive alumni base. I also get the chance to work on meaningful conferences, run the entrepreneurial TELL speakers series and tap into the entrepreneurial community through LBS. Being in London is also an amazing experience in itself!
What other schools did you consider?
Stanford GSB and Harvard Business School.
What made you want to do the internship at Flat-Club?
I got a chance to use Flat-Club services before I applied for the internship. I had a great experience with the customer service team and I rented out my place with the peace of mind that the renter belonged to my trusted school network. Essentially, I felt that Flat-Club was a solving a real need and that I could immediately contribute to its operations. It is also quite exciting to be at the ground level of a fast-growing LBS startup and work with Nitzan and the team.
What are your key responsibilities?
I am involved in Flat-Club’s US launch to the top 30 universities. My role in Business Development includes reaching out to students, alumni, and staff at the schools to get them excited and involved in the launch. I work with a great team to make this happen.
Is it a paid internship?
Working at a small start-up is not for everyone - what would you say are the most important attributes required?
The best part about working at a small start-up is the informal, interactive, and flat culture where everyone’s opinion is considered and where there is a good amount of experimentation and a lot of room for creativity and making up the rules as you go. I would say it’s important to stay flexible about where ideas come from and remember that your main goal is to build value for your customers.
How successful has the US launch been so far?
The US launch is off to a thrilling start! In the first 24 hours of the launch, Flat-Club received exclusive coverage from TechCrunch and was featured on TechCrunch’s homepage. Within this 24 hours, new users from 32 different universities signed up and new apartments and rooms were posted across the globe. Some interesting collaboration opportunities also presented themselves as a few US ventures contacted Flat-Club for partnership possibilities.
Europe-based firms often find it hard to "crack America". What has been the biggest challenge when launching Flat-Club in the US?
I think the hardest part of this launch has been getting the attention of student bloggers and university newspapers. It is the trust established with students on campus that has been instrumental to making the US launch a success for Flat-Club.
Tell us about DanceChaser.com - how did it begin?
The idea for DanceChaser began a couple of years ago when my brother, Tai, made several on and off attempts to learn salsa. It was on and off because he felt really overwhelmed in the first few classes he took.
Even beginner classes were catering to a wide spectrum of people, from people who have never danced before to those who grew up dancing a different style. Finding the right classes and teachers gave a major boost to his learning progress. Still there were other stumbling blocks along the way and removing them would make the learning process much simpler and enjoyable.
As for me, I've long been a fan of dance and my interest for dance came alive when watching “So You Think You Can Dance” so when my brother talked to me about it, I jumped aboard immediately.
One of our visions is to create a trusted community and marketplace that promotes health and fitness through dance. To start with, we are solving a practical problem that exists in the dance world right now, which basically comes down to the fact that the dance industry hasn't fully embraced the Internet. If you had to look for dance classes or events online right now, you’d find a lot of out-of-date information and no way to make an informed buying decision.
The only way to find out whether a service is good is by having to try out different providers. Those trials cost money and time and can erode your interest in learning.
So the immediate thing that DanceChaser is doing is helping people find quality instructors, fun events, good classes, and great venues…in their local dance scene.
Do you know how to dance Gangnam Style?!
Lol. Who doesn’t?!
What is your favourite place in London?
That is kind of a hard question because I enjoy London for the many activities that I can do here. But I do love theatre in London so my favourite places are along Shaftesbury Avenue.
What city would you like to live in next?
I will likely live in the Los Angeles and Orange County area next as I am planning to launch DanceChaser there. I also see myself travelling to Silicon Valley and London quite often.