Last year I joined Seedstars, an organization with the mission to impact people’s lives in emerging markets and activities in 70+ countries. As a traveling associate, I organized pitching competitions for early stage tech startups across Asia. When people hear about this job they are usually either envious about traveling for a living and working with tech entrepreneurs across a continent or appalled by this lifestyle. How is it really and what are my takeaways?
Let me start off with a few stats:
- 15 countries from Pakistan to China and Nepal to the Philippines
- 7 months
- 1000+ startups evaluated
- 120+ startups coached
- 18 events organized
- 22 flights
- 5 car accidents
- 1 night in a Starbucks, 1 night in a hammock, 12 nights on the floor without a mattress and countless nights hosted by great founders and ecosystem builders
These numbers show that having the opportunity to do this job means that you are up for a few intense months. What is it that you can expect to learn and take away?
- Resilience and independence: You work a lot and you have to hustle all the time. Moving to a new country every 3 to 14 days means that you have to navigate a different culture and to figure out how things work in a different environment every 240 hours on average. What I loved the most: a fire in the morning. As being in Asia meant that we are a few hours ahead of the management team in Europe. This gave us a great opportunity to figure stuff out ourselves and grow. Let’s be honest, it’s of course also challenging, for example when you only have 3 weeks and 2 people to organize a 3-day conference for 300 people from 15 countries including 200+ 1:1 meetings with investors and mentors, workshops, and panel discussions.
- Master of many things: Besides becoming an aficionado in event management you learn a ton of stuff simply because the whole show is run by only 2 people. The hats you have to take on include being a fundraiser, a designer, a startup evaluator, a startup coach, a judge, an MC (master of ceremony, hence hosting and moderating), a travel agent,... and everything happens pretty fast: e.g. the first Seedstars competition I ever witnessed I actually had to MC myself...in front of 250 people...in Yangon, Myanmar.
- Professionalism: Working as remotely as one does as a traveling associate means that you have the full trust of the management team to represent the company. So even though it might be the 3rd country you are in this week, it is a special occasion for the entrepreneurs and mentors, judges and partners invest their valuable time. Sometimes you might have to fake it because the expectations are high. For many, it's the first time the brief the jury or moderate the jury deliberation and actually feel very unsure about telling people with tons of experience what to do.
- Network: The network of Seedstars includes +70k contacts all over the world! And you are part of the team building it on the ground. It is a great opportunity to meet diverse personalities: investors such as 500 startups, CEOs of the biggest telcos, serial entrepreneurs and school students just getting started working on their first idea. Although you might only be in a place for a short amount of time, working on the same mission still bonds you with everyone you meet.
- Taking a break: Even though many things are yet to be done, you have to learn to take time off in order to work efficiently in the long run. This was one of the biggest learnings for me. Fortunately, Asia offers many places such as spending a weekend on Bali in Indonesia or Siquijor in the Philippines that are perfect to do so. You have to learn to take them and seize them.
- Dream team: Rather than a colleague your team member will feel like your partner in an arranged marriage. Why? We were not only always working together in the same place and traveling together, we mostly shared the accommodation, the bed and sometimes even the blanket.
- Working with doers and believers: Obviously, an incredible part is working with the founders. Working with entrepreneurs in emerging markets means getting to know and supporting people, who strive to improve their countries and are passionate about their solutions. It is incredibly inspiring and humbling to get to know people like Mamun from CMED, who wants to improve the healthcare system in Bangladesh or Audrey, who created ServeHappy Jobs, a platform aiming to provide job opportunities to Filipinos.
- Gratitude: We were welcomed with open arms by our last year’s winners and ambassadors everywhere we went and even often hosted! This is a one of a kind opportunity to get to know the culture, the country and the people and for me: asking a ton of questions. A big shoutout for everyone who made this so unique: a midnight road trip to a lake inside of a volcano inside of a lake in the Philippines, a cross-country road trip in Malaysia, daily home-cooked meals in Bangladesh, hikes and tons of momos in Nepal, midnight in the streets tea session and garbage collection activities in Pakistan.
Does it sound like a dream job to you? It did to me a year ago when I started and it still does. If you are up for a unique experience check out our job board at http://jobs.seedstars.com/.