Summer in Colombia: Interning at a Tech Start-Up

Second Year student Sarah Sanchez spent the previous summer in Colombia interning for the technology start-up Contratan.do, an internet platform that allows businesses to buy and sell services across the globe. In the post below, she reflects on her experience working at the international tech company.

Sarah Sanchez

Sarah Sanchez
MBA Class of 2014

“If I were willing to disclose the spreadsheets full of life goals and plans that are probably not unique in a circle of MBA candidates, you’d see “International Internship, Location: Latin America or Singapore?” in the cell for Summer 2013, but somewhere along the way during First Year Darden madness, that goal got lost in the shuffle as I joined the herd of students looking for traditional MBA jobs. So, as my plane flew into Bogota, Colombia, over a combination of endless dilapidated buildings and farmland, I started squirming in my seat, wondering what I’d gotten myself into for the summer.

When I landed, I was greeted by my sprightly future co-worker who had traveled more than an hour by bus to pick me up and make sure I had a place to stay. (Welcome to the glamorous start-up world!) Despite my independent streak, I’m sure glad he was there because he helped me avoid the $12/night hostel I had booked in what turned out to be a very seedy part of town and instead took me to a $25/night motel in a slightly less seedy part of town. Calle 46 and Caracas became my home for about a week as I searched for a place to live during my first week in Colombia.

During that week, I also started my internship with a tech start-up called Contratan.do. Like many early stage start-ups, Contratan.do was being accelerated by an incubator called Wayra, which is backed by Telefónica. We were one of seven start-ups housed in their hip office space on the other side of town. The office was always buzzing, with laughter, FIFA video games, panic, and World Cup qualifiers. On Day 2, visitors from Google brought in one of only three pairs of Google Glass that were in Colombia at the time, and that set the stage for what turned out to be quite a ride.

Each day brought more inspiration from my colleagues, and I built relationships that will last a lifetime. The founders of Contratan.do worked remotely from Mountain
View, Calif. and Charlotte, N.C., while also maintaining full-time post-MBA jobs, so they entrusted me to lead the strategic direction of the company as we executed major changes in our product, its design and the customer acquisition process. Along the way, I became completely intoxicated by the start-up culture and found the courage to overcome my fears and start talking about and executing on my own business ideas. I strongly doubt that I would have had the courage to do this were it not for the incredible young entrepreneurs I worked with every day and the hard working ethic (with a creative twist) that I found to be common among my friends and colleagues in Colombia.

By the end of the summer, my work gained Contratan.do a highly coveted spot in The Next Web’s Start-Up Rally competition in São Paulo, Brazil. Missing the first week of school was worth every moment as I rounded out the summer ensuring that Contratan.do would have exposure to investors throughout Latin America during my pitch on stage. Now that second year is in full swing and I reflect on my summer knowing that I fulfilled one of my dreams, I remind myself that “it’s the possibility of having a dream come true that makes life interesting.”

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