From the UK to the Triangle: Insights from the Startup TNT Internship Experience

By Shaan Yadav, Startup TNT Intern, Fall 2023

I applied for the Startup TNT internship program after seeing it mentioned on a Duke Innovation & Entrepreneurship newsletter. I was in a position where I knew how to build and make things such as small hardware projects and apps that can solve problems posed in places like hackathons – but I never knew what to do after making them. The Startup TNT internship to me seemed like the perfect opportunity to be around people experienced in the entrepreneurial world, and learn what it takes to succeed.

I want to hopefully solve a large societal problem one day, whether it be dealing with the rise of misinformation, or preventing seemingly incurable diseases – and I have come to learn that it’s likely that I will end up going on some sort of entrepreneurial path along the way. CED’s mission, “to connect entrepreneurial companies with high-value resources to accelerate business growth”, aligns perfectly with the types of things I would like to learn about entrepreneurship and startups, about how to get them from just an idea to something that provides meaningful impact on the world. 

Furthermore, originally being from the UK, I did not know much, or even thought much, about where the best place to start an entrepreneurial journey in the US might be. My head just thought it’s either Silicon Valley or New York, but through meeting and talking with people in the Triangle area during my time at CED I’ve realized that’s not quite true. I’ve really come to see that there is a lot more to be found in a lot of other places, and I was particularly surprised by how much is going on in the triangle – all of which I knew absolutely nothing about until working with CED. There almost seems to be an abundance of opportunity here that most people, at least at university, are completely oblivious to and that’s why they don’t take advantage of it.

The highlight of this internship was definitely the people I got to meet and learn from. Everyone at CED has a wealth of knowledge, and there is a lot to learn from them, not just by talking to them, but by simply being in their presence while they are working you learn a lot. In the office, you get to learn about how things actually get done in real life, how compromises are made during decisions, how different things are prioritized, how deadlines are realistically met – all things that seem to be crucial in the world of work yet are never really taught until you experience it. 

Furthermore, another highlight from my time as intern was the GRO Demo Day, where we got to all the companies exiting the GRO Incubator pitch. My favorite part of that was meeting all the different entrepreneurial people attending, and one meeting particularly stuck out to me. A few of us interns had sat down to eat, and Dr. Laura Paramoure sat down and joined us. What followed was about an hour long conversation that was perhaps the most insightful of my life, something that cannot be done justice written in a few sentences. And the truly amazing thing was that she was not the only person like this at the event, there were lots more, all from different walks of life, providing invaluable insights from their experiences, something I am very thankful for.

And for any future interns, I would highly recommend volunteering at any event possible – and talking to people, those events were one of the highlights of my internship and everyone you meet will almost certainly have a very interesting story and insight to provide if you talk with them. The internship doesn’t feel like a traditional internship where you are just brought in to work, during the internship you will be given the opportunity to meet and learn from people, much more than just sitting down and working. Using the opportunity to learn from people and their experiences, this internship provides an opportunity to learn about the entrepreneurial world in an experiential way, and it would be a shame not to take the opportunity to do just that. And most of all enjoy it!

Shaan Yadav is an undergraduate student at Duke University with a double major in Computer Science and Electrical & Computer Engineering, concentrating in AI & ML. His anticipated graduation date is May 2026.

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