By Santiago Freyria, Haas 2020
Six years ago I was an undergrad in economics looking for a part-time job. After more than 50 rejections because of lack of experience, I was willing to work for free. It turned out to be the best thing that has happened in my career, as I took the first job offer I got. That made me the fifth employee at Clip, which became Mexico’s third-largest startup. Being part of Clip’s exponential growth seeded my passion for entrepreneurship; I decided to study for an MBA in Berkeley because of the vibrant startup ecosystem and its unique location in the Bay Area.
As are most aspiring MBA entrepreneurs, I was skeptical about the value of a 12-week internship and planned to use the summer to start my own company—until I met Tim Smith, a serial entrepreneur and investor with 25+ years of experience (and the only person I know that got his car fixed by Steve Jobs)—at SkyDeck’s demo day. Talking to Tim about startups made me realize that there was no better place to learn about the startup ecosystem in the Bay Area than at an early-stage fund; if you will invest your time in a startup, you should wear an investor hat to assess your odds.
Bee Partners’ was the only internship I applied for, and again, I got extremely lucky, as reality has surpassed my already high expectations. Their venture immersion program has the great advantage of starting in January—when you work with and learn from such smart people, you want it to last as long as possible.
Culture is the foundational stone of any successful company. Bee embodies a culture where people matter most, and I’ll always be grateful for the amount of time Kira, Garrett, Michael, Tim, Mandie, and Elea invested in me. Bee’s support goes beyond the internship and covered my personal aspirations. As co-founder of StEP, a pre-incubator connecting multidisciplinary students across UC Berkeley to build startups, I was lucky to have Kira’s and Tim’s support. They provided me with resources, mentorship, key introductions, and their participation on our Showcase Day. At Bee I learned the importance of collaboration. We partner with our LPs, Founders, and bench. We’re hands-on early-stage investors, and dedicate most of our resources to support our Founders—75 percent of our companies raise a Series A (3x industry average).
Being part of a small company allows you to understand it deeply. I witnessed the rise of our third fund (and got detailed insights from Michael), the sale and death of startups in our portfolio, and everything in between. With only four full-time people, Bee operates like a startup; it is a sandbox where, as an intern, I could experiment and add value in multiple areas: sourcing companies, doing due diligence, writing payloads and white papers, building capitalization tables, supporting portfolio startups, improving processes, etc. I was encouraged to be proactive, fail quickly, learn, and iterate—a philosophy that reminds me of the culture at Clip.
For a curious mind, investing in the frontier of technology is addictive. Most Founders I met were inspiring and made me realize how little I know. I learned to get smart about new applications of technology and new industries very fast and to always have a point of view. At Bee, I witnessed the emergence of synthetic biology as our new investment vector and, with Garrett and Kira, we wrote an Industry Insight that helped us build our investment thesis for the space. I deeply enjoyed each conversation with the whole team, as they helped us define our point of view on SynBio.
Being part of Bee Partners doesn’t end with the internship. I will keep collaborating with them and I’m confident I will still have the team’s support during the rest of my career. How lucky I am!