This past summer, the Startup Hoyas gave stipends to six Georgetown MBA candidates who worked at startups. The program was designed to encourage new companies to hire Georgetown student interns by incentivizing them with funds. Our second article in this Summer Stipend Series covers Kate Venezia, a 2015 MBA candidate who interned in the financial department at HelloWallet.
Venezia left the traditional finance track, having worked at a large financial firm in Rhode Island and New York before coming to Georgetown for her MBA. After becoming more and more intrigued by startups, she decided to make the bold switch from finance to tech. “Once I got to this campus, the variety of different activities hosted by the Startup Hoyas and the MBA Entrepreneurship Club really solidified my interest in entrepreneurship and I found myself being drawn to this kind of pursuit.”
Last year, Venezia discovered HelloWallet–which is based in Dupont Circle–on a trek visit organized by the MBA Entrepreneurship Club. The purpose of the tour was to introduce students to various companies in DC and NY that ranged from startups to incubators to VC firms. “When we went to HelloWallet, the founder (Matt Fellowes) spoke about the company’s mission and what they are trying to accomplish. His remarks were inspiring and really stayed with me.” Venezia personally reached out to the startup in January, and was put into contact with HelloWallet’s CFO. When she interviewed with the CFO in February, she discussed the kinds of projects she could work on as an intern, and was offered a position for the summer.
HelloWallet is a personal financial planning software company, founded in 2009. The web and mobile application combines new technology and partnerships with industry experts to “offer high-quality, individualized financial advice” to users. Venezia emphasized that HelloWallet is the only company in the personal finance space that conducts behavioral research. “[Within the staff] there was a PhD candidate who is a behavioral science expert. HelloWallet is committed to integrating behavioral science into product development, and so to figure out how best to motivate people to make good financial choices we did a lot of really sophisticated testing to make sure that our users would be engaged.”
Even as an intern, Venezia interacted regularly with the company leadership and had close contact with the executive decisions that were made. “I was one of the first four people (along with the CFO) who found out about HelloWallet’s acquisition by Morningstar. There is so much teaching built into the environment at startups, and I got to see that firsthand,” said Venezia.
Having made the tough decision to leave the world of finance to take the road less traveled, Venezia has some advice for undergraduates. “Traditional career paths are important, but ultimately you’re going to perform better at the job if you are excited about your work. I knew that the traditional finance role was not right for me–I was neither a good cultural nor performance fit in the field, and I was not meeting my own standards. Another note to make is that my career search took a while and I had to wait while other people were getting internships and great professional opportunities were happening to them. The key is to stay calm and wait for it to happen, because startups hire much later and based on need.”
On the Hilltop, Venezia currently holds a leadership role in the MBA Entrepreneurship Club and contributes to planning events such as Tech Buzz and the VCIC competition. She also volunteers her experience to the 1:1 meetings that MBA candidates hold with students who are interested in entrepreneurship. “If you have reservations about the career path, we will sit down with you and talk you through those reservations,” commented Venezia.
For those who would like to get into contact with Ms. Venezia, she may be contacted at email@example.com.