29. maj 2020

My experience as a startup intern

By Shivani Karnik (student at Pharmaceutical Science and Anna Vestergård Jacobsen, innovation consultant at SUND Hub)

At the Faculty of Health and Medical Science, more and more students can do an internship in a startup while gaining ECTS. Whether studying Pharmaceutical Science, Health & Informatics, Medicine & Technology or something completely different, a startup internship can be a unique chance to get new insights on innovation and entrepreneurship. SUND Hub supports students in developing their own business or in taking part in the development process of someone else’s startup. Students learn how to put their skills into play in new ways and get hands on experience with early stage business development and the creation of new solutions for solving real life problems.

Shivani Karnik

Shivani Karnik is a master’s student in Pharmaceutical Science and has embraced this opportunity with open arms. In spring 2020 she is doing an internship in Ceremedy ApS, a research based pharmaceutical startup working on developing a new drug for sleep-related disorders. As part of the internship she takes part in a tailored workshop program in SUND Hub, supporting students in developing their entrepreneurial mindset.

We invited Shivani to share her journey and experience from the startup world, SUND Hub, on how a Danish startup company values their employees and not least, on how the corona situation challenged the initial plan and created new learning opportunities in her internship.

Setting off into the startup journey

“Coming from a non-business background with no one in my family as inspiration either, being part of a business at its root level is something I never imagined I was good at. Business always seemed to me like an area I should not venture into.

How would I ever convince people about my product? How would I ever manage the money? What would I do with the pressure of trying to bring success to the company? If you have these doubts too, then know that we belong to the same boat. But, if my experience says anything, it will help you sail to the shore too.

The connections you make and the experience you gain is unmatched.

Shivani Karnik

I joined Ceremedy ApS as an intern by the faith that my thesis supervisor, Dr. Petrine Wellendorph, put in me. It was by chance that I mentioned to her that I have applied to be part of the 2020 iGEM team from UCPH. (The iGEM Competition gives students the opportunity to push the boundaries of synthetic biology by tackling everyday issues facing the world).

Petrines’ interest peeked, and she immediately tried to find a way to help me in joining the SUND Hub program for Startup interns, where I could gain the theoretical knowledge of startups whilst helping in market analysis at Ceremedy ApS, where Petrine is also the CSO.  

It has been the most satisfying journey for me. It is true when they say that you should always work in a start-up or a small company at first. The connections you make and the experience you gain is unmatched.

I was given the task of analyzing the market and finding potential competitors for the startup – a huge part of venturing into a business is to know who you are competing against. Many a time, they turn out to be friends than nemeses. As part of my elective (ISU), I intended to work in the lab as well. However, the unforeseen circumstance of Covid-19 proved to be a setback for everyone, and I have not been able to help in the lab so far.

A cultural experience

As an intern in a Danish company, know that you will be valued just as much as the CEO.

Shivani Karnik

As an intern in a Danish company, know that you will be valued just as much as the CEO. I had only heard about it from a career development program I joined but it was after I became an intern that I realized my voice would never go unheard.

This is especially important for internationals who are used to a hierarchical work culture. It can be a bit intimidating at first, and it is possible that you hold back at times or feel like all eyes are on you. That is far from the truth. Danish companies value employees, and that is one of the many things I like about Denmark.

SUND Hubs workshop program for startup interns

I have to hand substantial credit to SUND Hub’s innovation consultants, Peter Løvschall and Anna Vestergård Jacobsen for being the most kind and welcoming people I have met. I was a newborn baby deer flailing to walk but never once did I feel out of place in an environment that was so new to me. At times, I wondered how they had the patience to answer the 1000 questions I had, but they are patient, intelligent people who will stop at nothing to make sure you are on the right path.

Throughout the workshops, I was introduced to people at SUND Hub to enhance my experience beyond presentations that SUND Hub prepared. They encouraged us to try out an “elevator pitch” for the start-up we worked at. We polished it with each practice and person we met, and by the end of it, I went from blabbering broken facts about the company to a fluent description of Ceremedy within 2 minutes. The workshop itself is of 5-sessions and covers the basic principles of a business to a well, prepared business chart that I have seen hung at many start-ups at Symbion too. That was pretty cool and exciting to me, honestly!

Dealing with the corona crisis

It goes without saying that Covid-19 has messed with plans a lot. Regardless, my biggest challenge was not the fact that I could not go to lab. It was the responsibility of analyzing the market. I had turned on Google alert on my phone and was flooded with information every day, that I had to sort through to find what was relevant and what was not.

Research in an unfamiliar area took time to grasp, but of course, SUND hubs employees Peter and Anna were there to guide me throughout. Petrine was also extremely encouraging, though I felt like I could have done better after my presentation!

My best advice to other students

If you are a curious person or want to simply know whether you could be good at starting a business, do not hesitate to join SUND Hub. It cannot get better than this for a newcomer. If you do have some experience but yet, would like to check this place out, you should do it.

Based on the little yet valuable experience I have, the best part about the start-up world is its journey. You do not need to be an extrovert to network here, and you will be surprised at how many people want to collaborate with you and see you succeed!

I came to SUND Hub a dreamer and I am leaving as a realist. I know that I am not an expert in business, but I am not naïve anymore either. SUND Hub has generated confidence in me and given me an incentive to break out of the pre-planned path that I have carved for myself and give a shot at being the CEO I have only imagined I could be, but never had the guts to bet on.”

Are you curious?

If you are a student at UCPH and want a touch of Shivani’s experience from the startup world, you can join the next internship program in Autumn 2020.

At The University of Copenhagen all 3 innovation hubs offer support for students from the entire university who want to do startup internships. Reach out to the innovation hubs and learn more about the opportunities in your study program. Read more at www.ie.ku.dk

The workshop program in SUND Hub is part of a national project “startup in Practice” that aims to expand the opportunities to do internship in startups.