Starting Up in Philly

This is the next in a series of posts by recipients of the 2018 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 Matthew Hanna, MSE ’19

I want to start this reflection off by thanking career services for funding my summer. The money I was awarded helped me out so much, as without it I would not have been able to cover the cost of rent and expenses while living and working in Philadelphia. As a FGLI student, opportunities like this are not available very often, and so I did my very best to maximize the experience and use the funds optimally.

This summer, I spent my time in Philadelphia developing my startup, InstaHub. We developed a light-automation device that installs on top of the existing light switch, eliminating the need for replacement and professional installation. I acted as an engineering lead, working to bring several technical components of our product to life, such as a portion of the device that gathers data for the customer; I also assisted heavily on power management of the device.

We iterated on each prototype at NextFab, a community makerspace located in South Philly. Each day, I spent 6-7 hours at the facility designing, checking, redesigning, and checking again as we made progress. The work was hard, tedious at some points, but ultimately being in the space with my other co-founders fueled our growth and bought us closer together as a team. It forced me to communicate in a clear way, which is something I’ve always struggled with. You don’t truly know yourself or what you stand for until you’re forced to reflect and admit when you’re wrong for the sake of team chemistry. These lessons mean the world to me and I will carry them through my career.  And even better, we made clear progress on bringing our product forward.

Being an entrepreneur is by far the most difficult career path I’ve chosen because of how demanding it is and how much sacrifice is required. This was the first summer I was able to focus solely on my business, and the funding was critical for making that a reality. Ultimately, it is not the sales or design experience that I will take away from this past summer, but it is more the independence that I gained. It is an independence that fueled me to try things that scare me – like starting a company, cooking new dishes, or biking alone from South Philly to Chinatown at night (and yes, all of those things happened).

Philly felt like, and still does, a home for me this summer. I look back at the time I spent and take the entire experience with a deep joy – joy that I could explore my passions and build a company and career, all while bonding with my friends in the area as well. Ultimately, it is not what we do that matters, but the connections we make and how we maintain them that give us meaning. The icing on the cake is that I’ve successfully integrated “jawn” into my vocabulary.

Author: Student Perspective

Views and opinions from current Penn students.