Jean Choi ’15,

Jean-ChoiVisiting Tigerlabs for the first time, I felt like I had stepped from Nassau Street straight into Silicon Valley.  On the second floor of 252 Nassau St., an unremarkable white building I had passed numerous times on my way to Small World, I found a workspace that reflected the innovative, creative work of its startups.  The entire floor was completely open – instead of walls or cubicles, the space was filled with long tables lined up side by side, topped with clusters of computer monitors and occupied by the small groups of people who made up each startup company.

I met my Princeternship host, Savraj Singh ‘03, at one of these desk spaces.  Savraj is the CEO of Wattvision, a startup company that produces energy monitors that track energy usage in homes and public buildings, and also creates software that displays live feedback on energy use and analyzes this energy data over time.  Wattvision’s goal is to help users decrease their energy usage, thereby cutting their energy bills and helping them to live more sustainably.

Day 1:
Like every day I was at Wattvision, the first day started with a short meeting with Savraj.  Savraj introduced me to some of the other people in Tigerlabs, several of whom were recent Princeton grads, and got me set up with a Wattvision account (!). He then introduced me to the project Wattvision is working on for Princeton University’s Sustainability Office – designing a more intuitive and informative display for the sustainability touch-screens located in Frist, Butler College, and Frick, and creating a corresponding mobile app.  My goal was to brainstorm ideas and compile them into prototype slides for both the touchscreen and the mobile app.

By researching infographics and other energy data visuals, I learned a lot about both sustainability efforts and effective ways to present data.  This project showed me how displaying a set of data in different ways can greatly change its impact, and it made me think both critically and creatively about a quite open-ended problem.

At lunch, I met the other half of the Wattvision team, Diego.  Diego graduated from Princeton last year, and had worked at Wattvision for a summer before joining the team.  Over lunch, I learned about both Diego’s and Savraj’s past experiences in industry and the startup world – before Wattvision, Diego had created a Facebook app with his friends during college, and Savraj had worked as a PM at Microsoft and at a startup that helped users run contests online.  I also talked with Diego and Savraj about some of the challenges of creating a startup, and how startups are funded.

Day 2:
On the second day of my Princeternship, I met with Savraj and Diego to share updates.  Savraj and Diego were working on the second version of Wattvision’s energy monitor, which needed some software tweaks.  I shared the touchscreen prototype slides I had made the day before, and we talked about ideas for the mobile app, which I would prototype that day.  I used a website called FluidUI to create my designs, which was a lot of fun to use and helped me create simple, sleek prototypes of possible designs.

In the afternoon, I sat with Diego as he edited the code for the energy sensor.  He explained some of the basic principles of Python and web development to me, and I learned how to use Git to commit/roll back code.  It was exciting to see a real-life application of the principles I had learned in my computer science classes, and to see the immediate feedback that came from sending edited code to working energy monitors.

As it was Diego’s second-to-last day at Wattvision before he moved to LA to be part of another startup project, everyone in Tigerlabs threw a surprise going-away party for him!  I got to meet a lot of the people in Tigerlabs at the party, and played an intense game of Werewolves with Savraj, Diego, and other Tigerlab-ers.  It was a great way to end my second day.

Day 3:
On day 3, I shared my mobile app Wattvision Princeternship 005prototype with Savraj and Diego, and talked about the actionable metrics for this format.  For the rest of the day, I worked on compiling user feedback from Wattvision’s feedback forum.  It was really interesting to hear what users had to say about Wattvision, and what they thought could be improved.  Reading the feedback made me realize how much users relied on Wattvision’s sensors and data tools, and how conscious they were of their environmental impact.

I also had the opportunity to hear a speaker from Tigerlabs’ weekly speaker series, Janine Yoong.  Janine, who is a Princeton grad and is working at TokBox, talked about the qualities of an effective “First Business Man” in a company.  It was a great talk, and it was very interesting to me because I’ve had very little exposure to the “business” side of technology, and this aspect of a startup is extremely important.

Day 4:
On my last day at Wattvision, I wrote a blog post for Wattvision’s blog about its new location in Tigerlabs.  This gave me the opportunity to learn more about Tigerlabs and the other startups that are a part of it.  Wattvision’s space in Tigerlabs was also new to me, and I enjoyed sharing news about it on the blog.  In fact, one of the things I liked most about my Princeternship was the work environment I got to experience – Tigerlabs had such a fun, relaxed environment, and the level of creativity and collaboration of the different groups really added to the positive vibe.  While learning about the startup world, sustainability, and web development, I also got to ride a Ripstik, make espresso, play with quadricopters, demo some apps, and pet dogs that people brought in to work. Though Tigerlabs was made of many different companies, I felt that it was a close-knit community of entrepreneurs who were all passionate about their work and excited about the future of technology and health.

On the last day I also got to ask Savraj some of the questions I still had about how he applied what he learned at Microsoft now, what being a PM at Microsoft was like (he had been part of the team that created Microsoft 2007!), and what he recommended for someone pursuing a future in entrepreneurship. Having come into the Princeternship with no previous startup experience, it was amazing to be able to talk to Savraj about his past and current experiences in the startup world, and how he had gotten started.  Savraj gave me a lot of great advice about how to avoid common startup mistakes, and he introduced me to many resources that gave tips about entrepreneurship and shared recent startup news.  I am very grateful to Savraj for all of the experiences and advice he shared with me – after four days, I feel like I have a much better grasp of what it takes to be part of a startup, and what I should do now to get started on the path to becoming an entrepreneur!

Overall, I had a very fun and rewarding Princeternship experience, and I learned a lot about both Wattvision and the entrepreneurial career path.  I would like to thank Savraj, Diego, and everyone at Tigerlabs for welcoming me into their workspace and making this such a great experience.  I would definitely recommend this Princeternship to any student who is interested in technology or startups, as it helped me explore a career path I had not had exposure to before.  If you want to get to Silicon Valley, you should get started at 252 Nassau Street!

Phoebe Tran ’16, Prescription Advisory Systems and Technology

Phoebe-TranMy Princeternship at PAST Inc. this Spring Break was a valuable and memorable experience. For three days, I was able to become an integral part of this technology and healthcare startup, founded by Mr. Joe Studholme ’84.

A newly established company, PAST Inc. has its headquarter in the recently furnished office space on Nassau Street. A week before our official Princeternship, another Princetern, John Su ’16, and I were invited to the office for an introductory meeting with Mr. Studholme. With warm orange lights, PAST Inc. offices bear a welcoming atmosphere, professional but at the same time friendly. We greeted Mr. Studholme and were introduced to Katrina Maxcy ’15, who is working at the company as a research analyst. Mr. Studholme first told us about his Princeton career, and his decision to join a startup company and become a part of the budding technology entrepreneurship scene in the U.S. during the mid-1980s. He then discussed his own entrepreneurial endeavors, which resulted in the successful creation, development and sale of Restricted Stocks Company at the beginning of 2000s. After this, Mr. Studholme began to inform us on the business model of PAST Inc., which was founded in response to the growing issues of prescription drug abuse and the resulted concerns over the patient-physician relationship that affects healthcare quality. The company’s product analyzes data concerning the history of prescription drug purchases of residents in certain states and informs physicians who are treating these patients whether they are abusing, or have the prospect of abusing prescription drugs. The hour-long meeting laid the foundation for my market research project during the Princeternship.

The first day:
With quiet excitement, John and I arrived at the office at 10 am, preparing to meet the company staff and learn more about entrepreneurship. We got to choose our own working desks and were given a tour around the office by Ms. Davitt, the office manager. We also met Mr. Schultz and Ms. Hartz, the two other members of the office staff. At 10:30, the company staff gathered in the conference room, where Mr. Studholme explained the plan he had in mind for the two Princeterns.

Tran 1

John Su ’16 and I working on our market analysis report.

We were to complete a market analysis project in three days and gave a presentation on our findings on the last day to the company’s board and staff members. We were assigned the responsibility of compiling relevant data from a DEA report and other information sources on states’ Prescription Drug Monitoring Programs in the US. We then devised a scoring algorithm to evaluate each state’s market potential and ranked them according to these preliminary scores. At 1 pm, we went out for lunch with Mr. Bayazitoglu, the company’s attorney, and talked to him about his position and also his career choice. John and I finished a productive first day with a comprehensive report.

The second day:
Knowing my way around the company and the appointed tasks, I felt more comfortable and prepared to continue to tackle the project Mr. Studholme asked us to do. By this time, I had also learned a lot about not only the company’s product but also the day-to-day operations of the company. The staff convened again that morning to discuss the newly designed business card and logo of the company, a task seemingly simple yet it required a lot of careful consideration. During this day, the two Princeterns plunged back into research and were given an incredible amount of independence in deciding research method and process. The task on the second day turned out to be much more complicated than the first, and we had to come up with a reasonable and effective scoring algorithm that could add on to the results of the day before. With thoughtful guidance from the staff, we again ended the second day with success, learning the hardship and excitement of market analysis. I was thrilled to present our report to the company the next day.

The final day:
On the last day of our Princeternship, since we had completed our reports, Tran 2John and I spent time in the morning revising and improving our data tables and written reports and thought about our afternoon presentation. After lunch, Mr. Studholme set up a Web conference for the Princeterns to present our research findings. We got to know a few more members of the company’s staff and the co-founder of PAST Inc. The presentation went smoothly and our report would be used to consider the future direction of the company’s operations and research.

This Princeternship gave me a wonderful opportunity to have an inside look at a startup in its early development. Thanks to Mr. Studholme, who created this opportunity for Princeton students, and the company staff, who welcomed us so warmly.  I was able to learn about the decision making process of the executives, about market targeting, about the market research necessary to help these considerations, and the working culture and environment within a technology startup. The experience, as a whole, informed me about the process of creating and managing an entrepreneurial business, which I aspire to do or be a part of in the future. I would like to thank Career Services for this wonderful internship program and again Mr. Joe Studholme for this invaluable experience.

Yixian Su ’16, Prescription Advisory Systems and Technology

John-SuI was actually able to sample a small taste of my Princeternship experience before its scheduled dates. The other Princetern, Phoebe Tran ’16, and I met up with Joe Studholme ’84, our host, one week before our start date for an hour or so worth of orientation at his startup, P.A.S.T. During that time, we learned about the company’s mission as well Joe’s background and experience. P.A.S.T is a startup aimed at developing technology in conjunction with Prescription Monitoring Programs in order for physicians and pharmacists to better serve their patients and customers. The startup aims to use their technology to ensure that doctors can be confident that the right consumers are using prescribed medicine, thus combatting the high annul rate of deaths due to mis-prescription and prescription abuse.

Day 1:
After arriving at around 10 am, we were given a tour of the various office spaces at P.A.S.T and met the key figures of the startup. Then, we listened to a powerpoint presentation in the conference room about Prescription Monitoring Programs (PMPs) and their implications in each of the 50 states. From there, we were assigned our first task as research analysts: to process various types of data on all the states and then rank the states by the feasibility of success of P.A.S.T’s prescription monitoring software based a key report from the Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA). Phoebe and I split up the work by dividing our research to focus on 25 states each, as we created various excel tables that documented, and in a sense quantified, the categorical data in the DEA report on PMPs. By the end of the day, after coming up with a methodology of ranking the states, we color coded and labeled a map in the office into 5 tiers, and we summarized our research process and findings in a report that was later forwarded to the rest of the company for reference.

Day 2:
Our research today expanded on the concept of ranking states that would be favorable for P.A.S.T’s technology to develop in. In addition to considering implications from the DEA report, today’s research focused on quantifying data from state laws and statutes on the sharing of the Prescription Monitoring Program with outside parties for research and statistical purposes. We developed an algorithm in excel for taking into account how a state’s population — its number of prescribers, consumers, pharmacies, etc. — would play into its final ranking. Like Day 1, we went HAM on our research and despite staying at the office until 7 pm, we were happy with our process and were able to produce significant results which we put into another research report that was forwarded to the CEO and our host, Joe Studholme, of which he later forwarded to the rest of the company.

Day 3:
Today was a more lax day at the office. Rather than prying various sources for research, we went over and refined our past findings from the first two days of our Princeternship. This was so that we could be better prepared for our presentation to the company later in the afternoon. Shortly after lunch, we all gathered in the conference room and had others who were not present at the office call in and listen in on our presentation of our findings. After a 30-minute presentation, we called it a day, took some pictures with Joe in the office, and walked over to Triumph for some late afternoon appetizers while watching some March Madness on television. We chatted with our host Joe, and a few other key people in his company — his legal consultant Ahmet and his marketing expert Steve — about their college and life experiences. After a few hours of long stories, life lessons, and laughs, accompanied with helpings of cherry grove cheese plates, crab dip, and calamari, we all parted our ways — a bittersweet, yet fulfilling end to these P.A.S.T 3 days at this awesome Princeternship.

The types of actives we were engaged in at this Princeternship exceeded my expectations in a good way. We were given time engaging in the presentations and shadowing the routines of the key people at this startup, but we were also able to work on a research project that the company can really make use of even after we left. I don’t think Phoebe, Joe or I and the others at P.A.S.T would have thought that we were able to crank out so much significant research in just the few days we were there. Since Joe had already seen enormous success with his previous company that he had started from scratch and later sold for more than $15 million, the work environment at P.A.S.T was most likely more upscale than the classic startup atmosphere, which was very nice. Everyone was extremely friendly and helpful, and there was a little kitchen stocked with Chips Ahoy, Oreos, Fig Newtons, ramen, juice, soda, and water for our consumption.

Since we were at at startup, this experience was a great Su 1opportunity for us Princeterns to really engage ourselves with not only the CEO, Joe, but a range of professionals crucial to a successful company; this included the legal consultant and lawyer in the house, Ahmet; the marketing and public relations key person, Steve; the office manager, Traci, and the business manager, Sue. This experience was a great time for me to see a company at the intersection of medicine, technology, and business — three of my top interests. Though you can’t get a feel of the long term work that such a startup does, you can, in these few days of a Princeternship, get a feel for what the work environment at such a company is like — the workplace, the team chemistry, the overall atmosphere.

I benefitted from this Princeternship by applying some of the aspects I learned about statistical analysis from my Statistics for Engineers ORF 245 class which I took in the fall and applied it to a real life scenario. Moreover, the experience really gave me an inside look at how a company is run and the various facets needed for a successful company to survive and prosper. Though the work I did these days was insightful and rewarding, I would have to say that the most valuable part of this experience was when Joe and his key partners took us out to eat at Triumph, just a few steps away from the office. It was during this time that they shared their college experiences, and it was really fascinating since most of them were Princeton alumni. We also talked about the various career paths and life experiences they’ve come across, and it was just a really amazing time for me to interact with such accomplished and influential, yet down to earth people. That said, I strongly recommend the Princeternship Program to other students! Thank you to all the people at P.A.S.T, the Princeternship Program, and Career Services for making this one segment of my Spring Break memorable and rewarding!

Michelle Scharfstein ’15, FamZoo

Michelle-ScharfsteinFor my Princeternship, I spent three days with Princeton alum Bill Dwight ’84.  After working for a variety of companies, Mr. Dwight’s passion for teaching his own children how to manage their finances led him to form the company, which is an online virtual bank that helps kids learn good money habits.  He is the CEO and runs the company with his former Princeton roommate, Chris Beaufort.

During my first day, Mr. Dwight explained to me his background, how he started the company, and what he and Mr. Beaufort hope to accomplish.  He gave me many insights into the business world and showed me the many different aspects that go into creating a successful company.  I was introduced to the different programs Mr. Dwight and Mr. Beaufort use to analyze data from their website, for accounting, and to keep track of any correspondences with each other, partners, or customers.  Mr. Dwight also explained to me the different channels through which FamZoo (and other companies) can acquire customers and revenue, and their respective costs of customer acquisition.  These channels include organic subscriptions (customers who randomly find FamZoo through Google, ads, or word of mouth), affiliate subscriptions (customers who read about FamZoo through affiliates who sponsor and promote the company’s products), and partner editions of the product (slightly modified versions that credit unions and banks can promote to their own customers).  FamZoo will soon open another channel of revenue through its newly formed partnership with a prepaid card company, TransCard.  FamZoo and TransCard will offer new Prepaid Card Family Packs, which will allow transactions to and from the children’s cards to be made much more easily and directly.

With this new exciting product being produced soon, my job was to estimate future revenue and profits through Excel models.  I started with a simple original model that only included the organic channel of revenue and then, with Mr. Dwight’s guidance, added to it to include the other channels.  Finally, I also created a model for the amount FamZoo will have to pay TransCard every month given the number of active subscribers using the Family Pack cards.  Creating these models helped me understand the importance of debugging and double-checking everything – with the amount of various costs complicating the process, it was easy to forget a detail or two.  While I was creating these models, Mr. Dwight kept me updated with any new developments and continually showed me more and more of the processes involved in running the company.

Thanks to Mr. Dwight, this week’s work was a great learning experience but was also a lot of fun.  While Mr. Dwight was always efficiently working, he never failed to explain his thought processes to me and he even made sure to throw in a few fun breaks, including a quick photo shoot and nice bike rides to lunch!

Scharfstein multi photosThis Princeternship helped me understand so much more about entrepreneurship, and gave me valuable experience in the field.  I would definitely recommend participating in the Princeternship program to any students who want to learn about a field and have fun doing so!