Start-Ups, Houses and Kissing Bugs:

This is the next in a series of posts by recipients of the Career Services Summer Funding Grant. We’ve asked funding recipients to reflect on their summer experiences and talk about the industries in which they’ve been spending their summer. You can read the entire series here.

This entry is by Gabriela Goitia Vazquez, COL ’18

ggv1Apple. Google. Twitter. These are the names that immediately come to mind when one thinks of Silicon Valley: big companies that earn millions of dollars a year through new technology and consumer spending. So when I found myself working for a start-up non-profit in San Francisco (a Y-Combinator backed start-up at that), I can’t say that I knew what to expect. Sure enough, by the end of the summer I had acquired a skillset that can only come from working in a really small, really fast-paced organization: an organization like New Story.

New Story is a non-profit that turns slums into sustainable communities. It crowdfunds homes on an online platform, and it offers a 100% transparency model. This means that the organization’s overhead costs are funded separately from home donations, so every dollar that a person donates to a campaign goes directly into building a house. Although they’re based in San Francisco, New Story currently funds communities in Haiti, El Salvador and Bolivia. The team is really small: 6 people to be exact. Despite the team’s size, though, it’s created major impact by successfully building over 200 homes and funding over 600.


Although, I joined New Story as a Marketing Intern, I ended up working ggv3 with the entire team. I arrived a time when the organization had just hired two new members (a Chief Technological Officer and a Global Impact Manager), and was about to launch a major publicity campaign. Needless to say, I hit the ground running. On my first day, my immediate supervisor told me I would be in charge of connecting with influencers on social media platforms to promote our Kiss Campagin. The purpose of the campaign was to raise awareness about a kissing bug in Bolivia that was putting our community members in Mizque, Bolivia at risk of the Chagas illness.

ggv5Being given so much responsibility so early on gave me a sense of ownership over not only the Kiss Campaign, but also over all of my other tasks. By the end of the summer, our followers increased by over 1,000 on Instagram and by over 600 on Twitter. I also got to help with a myriad of tasks, including summarizing literature on the impact of housing in international slums, strategizing new tactics for non-traditional start-up growth, and even creating recommendations for our donor gratitude system. I quickly learned two things: don’t be afraid to ask questions when you’re unsure of how to do something, and always be willing to lend a helping hand, especially to your fellow team members.

This summer, I fortunate enough to work at the intersection of technology and social impact, in a part of the world that’s often known for monetary interests. New Story taught me that innovation can and should have a conscience; it should move the world forward in order to create more equitable opportunities for people in all parts of the world.

(One campaign at a time.)

Author: Student Perspective

Views and opinions from current Penn students.