Exploration and Engagement: How the Startup TNT Program Evolved my Perception of Entrepreneurship

By John Buxton, Startup TNT Intern, Spring 2024

When I first got the news that I had been accepted into the Startup TNT program, my thoughts were mixed with both excitement of the new opportunity, along with hesitations about whether or not I could balance the internship with my spring classes. After calling one of my friends and classmates from a summer Duke Innovation & Entrepreneurship class, Lhamo Dixey, a Fall 2023 Startup TNT Intern, she immediately told me “You need to do this!” It was no question from there, the amazing opportunities that Lhamo articulated for me about the internship were, if anything, understated.

After my semester of engaging with CED, I could not be happier that I made the choice to join the team. As a growing student and entrepreneur myself, I had the chance to witness what entrepreneurship looks like in the real-world setting, not just a classroom. At the same time that I joined the CED team, I began developing Helian, a crowdsourced database for company sustainability and impact metrics with two friends of mine at Duke. While developing Helian, I was able to watch GRO Incubator pitches and Venture Connect presentations, both of which allowed me to observe what it means to be a strong, early-stage entrepreneur. Along with this, the VC networking opportunities gave me the opportunity to speak with investors and learn what they are looking for in a company.

CED is an amazing organization for anyone looking to either dip their toes, or dive right into the entrepreneurial ecosystem of the Triangle and beyond. I was able to attend pitches and network with peers and professionals in the sustainability space at Venture Connect, with hundreds of talented and amazing individuals and organizations in attendance. Working day-to-day, I was able to help CED with engaging projects to support NC Entrepreneurs; Along with supporting CED internal operations, I reviewed pitch decks, identified investors for startups to approach, and gave in-person feedback to Venture Connect Startups.

I would recommend anyone interested in Entrepreneurship to apply to the Startup TNT Internship. The opportunity proved so rewarding that I have agreed to return as a Lead Intern in Fall 2024, and can’t wait to start a new era in my journey with CED!

John Buxton is an undergraduate student at Duke University majoring in Economics with a Finance concentration and an Innovation & Entrepreneurship certificate. His anticipated graduation date is May 2026. John will return to CED in the fall to help lead the fall 2024 Startup TNT intern cohort.

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