Q&A with TechNexus’ Summer Undergraduate Interns

Maya Malackowski is a rising sophomore at the University of Notre Dame studying Finance with a minor in Collaborative Innovation. At Notre Dame, Maya is heavily involved at the University’s IDEA Center, the on-campus innovation incubator where she serves as both a Fellow and Startup Coach. As a Startup Coach, she advises entrepreneurs in the University’s ecosystem at the undergraduate, graduate, and faculty levels on their startup from product ideation to investor-focused deck creation. Maya is interested in pursuing a career in the venture capital space with an emphasis on intellectual property monetization and strategy. 

Bella Chen is a rising third year at the University of Chicago studying Economics with a specialization in data science. She is originally from the Bay Area in California. In her free time, she loves baking with her friends, playing video games, and watching cooking videos.

Vik Nandigama is a rising third year at Northwestern University studying Economics and Entrepreneurship. In the long run, he wants to go into the world of Venture Capital. In his free time, you’ll probably see Vik exploring Chicago’s many amazing restaurants, playing Spikeball on the NU lakeshore, or just going to a movie with friends.

Josh Haskell is an incoming junior studying business analytics at Notre Dame. Last year he worked for a glamping startup, and he has enjoyed seeing the startup world from a different angle at TechNexus. In his free time, he enjoys skiing, swimming, reading novels, and spending time with his family.

What was the most beneficial piece of advice that a TechNexus member has given you since starting at TechNexus?

Maya: Ever since I started at TechNexus, I have been encouraged to ask questions. I think that the best piece of advice that I’ve received was to never apologize for asking questions and to always try and gain as much knowledge and experience as possible from every task that I complete. 

Bella: The most beneficial piece of advice I’ve received at TechNexus has been to never settle and to persevere in pursuing my goals.

Vik: Kaitlyn told me to just take life one opportunity at a time. She told me she had no idea where her career would end up when she first began her journey and told me that internships should be leveraged to figure out what you want to do, and what aspects of jobs you might like.

Josh: The best advice I have received is to always be unafraid to ask questions. Every TechNexus team member is adamant that we go to them when we do not understand. This advice has encouraged me to speak up when something does not make sense, and I have learned much more because of it.

Why did you decide to intern at TechNexus?

Maya: I have always been interested in the startup space. With both of my parents being successful entrepreneurs, I grew up immersed in the fast-paced venture capital ecosystem. I appreciated the approach that TechNexus takes with their portfolio companies, evaluating how they can add value not only for them, but also for their corporate partners. Eventually, when narrowing down my internship opportunities I was deciding between TechNexus and a large corporate firm. I decided to intern at TechNexus because I felt it was the place where I could provide the most value and get the most tailored experience to a potential future career in the venture space. 

Bella: I wanted to gain more exposure to careers in finance and explore the venture capital space. Since I am especially interested in tech, I was attracted to TechNexus as they specialize in Series A tech companies. Moreover, what makes TechNexus stand out is its joint venture model with corporations. I was interested in learning more about how TechNexus works in these partnerships and their relationship with the companies they invest in.

Vik: I liked the unique lens that TechNexus had as a bridge between corporations and startups, and I was honestly eager for any experience I could get in the world of venture. Also, when I was a junior in high school, I applied for a program that worked closely with ShotTracker and was rejected, and now the same company is one of TechNexus’ PortCos. Small world!

Josh: What made TechNexus attractive to me was its excellent leadership. Every person that I spoke with in interviews was extraordinarily kind and intelligent. I really wanted to explore venture capital, and I was confident that TechNexus would provide me with an intern experience in which I would learn every day. I was correct!

What have you gained from your internship at TechNexus?

Maya: I approached this internship hoping to gain a lot of information and experience that will be beneficial to me when I return to work as a Startup Coach at the University of Notre Dame in the fall. During my time at TechNexus, I learned a great deal about the investor perspective and what is important to investors of different calibers. I feel that this experience will be invaluable to the entrepreneurs I coach in the fall as they pitch for funding. 

Bella: Throughout my internship, I’ve developed a deeper interest in venture capital, as well as a better understanding of how VCs operate through my various projects.

Vik: I have gained so much experience in the world of venture: how a lifecycle for investment works, so much jargon, what kinds of duties employees in this field might have, how to cold email and make connections, etc. 

Josh: I have learned much about what workdays look like as a venture capitalist. I have learned the ins and outs of sourcing companies, TechNexus’s investment strategies, as well as trends and developments in the many industries of the startup world.

What attracted you to apply for an internship at TechNexus?

Maya: I was attracted to TechNexus because of its position in both the venture capital space, as well as the collaborator space via TeamWorking by TechNexus. I was excited to apply to work in an environment so dense with entrepreneurs that I could learn valuable lessons from. 

Bella: TechNexus’ close-knit team made it clear that they had a strong community, which attracted me as I could gain valuable experience this summer, working under directors and knowing that my work would matter.

Vik: The interviews I had with Kaitlyn and Paula gave me a sense of how engaging and kind the team was, and the research I conducted on the website just confirmed the fact that this is a field I want to be in, and TechNexus would give me invaluable experience, professionally and personally. 

Josh: I worked at a glamping startup last year, and I was very interested to learn about startups from another angle. There is something very exciting about investing in a new product or service. TechNexus has an excellent and kind team, and I was confident that I would learn a lot through this internship.

What was your favorite project that you worked on while at TechNexus?

Maya: I greatly enjoyed the capstone research project that I did on the future work environment. This project was in relation to TeamWorking and how COVID-19 has impacted their market. I also really enjoyed learning more about Shure, which has the largest collection of investments of any of TechNexus’ corporate partners and it was interesting getting to see the investment theme and strategic fit for Shure with each of the portfolio companies they invested in through that joint venture partnership.

Bella: My favorite project was researching past comparable transactions to revalue one of the companies we invested in.

Vik: I’ve enjoyed my investment thesis project and the opportunity to present it to the entire team. This experienced helped me feel like I could potentially have a large impact and maybe even help find a future PortCo for TechNexus.

Josh: My favorite project was researching the recession. I was tasked with researching what industries do well during economic recessions, then I applied this background to answer the question of whether or not the markets for outdoor recreation would have steady demand during a future recession. This was especially fun for me because I worked at a glamping startup last summer!

What was your favorite TechNexus event or experience you attended?

Maya: I enjoyed attending and working the rethink: FIT event hosted by TechNexus! At the event, I was able to network with many people in the venture space, as well as entrepreneurs focusing on health, fitness, and recreation. 

Bella: My favorite TechNexus event was the rethink: FIT summit. I loved learning about all the companies that were in attendance, as well as demo-ing some products. As I am also personally interested in the fitness and wellness industry, I had a great experience hearing about startups’ visions for their products.

Vik: Probably one of the DemoDays that we have access to, but the pipeline meetings are also very interesting as they’re high level and cover so much information. This was one of my first experiences of witnessing how a VC firm operates.

Josh: As a virtual intern, I loved going into the office to meet the team. The Chicago office has an incredible atmosphere, and many employees stopped to introduce themselves when they saw a new face. It was motivating to be around such driven people.

If you could pick one TechNexus portfolio company to work for, which would it be and why?

Maya: If I could pick one TechNexus portfolio company to work for it would be Respeecher. Respeecher is a Ukraine-based company that does “voice cloning for content creators”. They also work closely with big production companies like Disney to do voice reconstruction via AI. Since learning about Respeecher, I have been fascinated by how they have contributed to the quality of some of my favorite shows. I will continue to follow news from their team and am excited to see them continue to grow. 

Bella: I would pick Tonal because it would be an amazing experience to work with their equipment and transform fitness.

Vik: Definitely ShotTracker or Tonal. ShotTracker was a company that I discovered my junior year of high school, and was a local company then as I’m from around the Kansas City, Missouri area. I’m also very into basketball, so technology that tracks stats, misses, and just gives you such detailed feedback seemed awesome to me. Tonal is also a company I found very intriguing because of the huge investors in this product: Lebron in the commercials, Serena Williams, Steph Curry, etc. Beyond that though, I found the technology itself very fascinating as it removed the need to go to a gym with an all-in-one exercise package. 

Josh: I would work for Let’s Do This. I love exploring outdoor ways to exercise and stay healthy. I think it would be exciting to be on the front lines of executing their excellent ideas for outdoor exercise.

How has this summer at TechNexus affected your idea of what role you may want to have in your future professional career?

Maya: This internship has affirmed my desire to work in the venture space. Whether I want to be in the area as an investor, analyst, or even entrepreneur I am still unsure, but I have a passion for building and advising startups. 

Bella: This summer at TechNexus has further sparked my interest in VC and encouraged me to consider going into this industry in the future.

Vik: This summer has definitely just cemented the idea that VC is the industry I want to be in for at least a while. What position, company, etc. though? I’m still not sure, but I’m trying to narrow down my possibilities. 

Josh: I am more drawn to a career that relates to startups. One thing that I appreciate more than ever about VC is its connection to real-life products. It is a balance of financial skills and understanding industry trends that keeps the job fresh and exciting.

TechNexus Venture Collaborative’s Summer Undergraduate Interns brainstorming with Founder, Fred Hoch.

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