Motivated student interns in Oregon State’s Advantage Accelerator/RAIN Corvallis program assist startup companies with critical entrepreneurial tasks such as running social media platforms and marketing programs, working with angel investors, writing nonconfidential disclosure reports and more. Meet three of our current Accelerator interns:

Justin Phillips

Justin Phillips, who grew up in Anchorage, Alaska, earned his undergraduate double degree in management and marketing. After working for a few years, he decided to pursue an MBA in Innovation Management at Oregon State and work as an intern in the Advantage Accelerator program. Just seven months into his internship, he landed the opportunity of a lifetime.

Phillips connected with Paul King, a Corvallis business owner conducting research on solar power. Phillips assisted King with research on heat exchangers — devices that transfer heat from one item to another — and before long, King asked Phillips to be the CEO of the upcoming company, SunShot. 

“I was of course on board, because it is exactly what I want to do,” Phillips says.

Phillips credits his success to the great connections he was able to make through his Accelerator internship. In addition, he says it has allowed him to build different skill sets, from conducting market research, to building websites, to helping companies launch.

Mark Lieberman, co-director of the Advantage Accelerator program, says Justin has grown a great deal during his time as an intern. 

“Justin has taken charge of a significant portion of our social media responsibilities,” Lieberman says. “And he impressed one of our clients so much that he is running a significant portion of the startup.”

As far as the future goes, Phillips is up for any challenge that comes his way. 

Chiara Marzi

Chiara Marzi isn’t afraid to try new things. And she makes it her goal to put herself out there.

As a finance and mathematical economics major, and member of two student groups centered around business, an Accelerator internship was a natural fit.

Marzi says her experience provided life skills that can be applied in a variety of areas, including her planned career in investments. 

Of all the things she’s learned so far, Marzi says working with professionals who are passionate about their ideas helped her build confidence. And she is thankful for having the chance to lead meetings and assist clients one-on-one with business direction.

Karl Mundorff, co-director of the Advantage Accelerator program, describes Chiara as a fearless leader.

“Chiara takes on every task and technology without hesitation,” he says. “She can analyze the prospects of a technology or a company and articulates her perspective clearly and concisely. She does that in writing and in person and has no problem addressing founders, veteran investors, mentors and the like.”

One of Marzi’s most memorable experiences was assisting Chef Mel’s, an Accelerator client, with market research like determining product fit and identifying competitors. Their product, a unique honey barbeque sauce that could also be used as a dip or marinade, was unlike anything else on the market. She conducted surveys outside of the First Alternative Co-op in Corvallis, determining which foods people would pair the sauce with. 

“It was a lot of fun because I was able to help the client find out where their product fit in with existing competitors.”

This summer, Marzi will work as an intern for Pacific Crest Securities in Portland, where she will conduct stock market research and study company earnings reports. 

No matter where the future takes her after that, she intends to stay involved with startups.

“I really enjoy the field,” she says. “It is so fluid because people are constantly changing their ideas and modifying business plans to make them better. It is really inspiring.”

Susmita Padala

Photo by Hamza Molvi

Susmita Padala’s life goal is to help others through computer technology. 

As a computer science major, Padala is conducting research in the field of Human Computer Interaction (HCI). With the help of Anita Sarma, associate professor of computer science at Oregon State, Padala is attempting to identify and eliminate gender barriers in open source software. However, her main passion lies in assistive technology, such as visual tracking software for people with disabilities. She hopes to start a business in assistive technology.

Padala’s journey toward completing her goal began with her internship at the Advantage Accelerator. She says her experience creating market and commercialization summaries, defining target markets and potential competitors has opened her eyes to what it takes to start a company.

“It is so important to not only focus on what you want, but what the consumer wants,” she says. “Conducting market research taught me the importance of observing people and finding out what they really need.”

Mundorff says Padala has achieved a great deal since beginning her internship. 

“She has done outstanding work, not only for our Accelerator teams, but also for the tech transfer office. It’s great to see her working with our clients in a collaborative manner and really becoming a valued resource.”

Padala says she looks up to her Accelerator supervisors, as they are incredibly knowledgeable in their areas of expertise. They’ve provided valuable advice, including the importance of sharing an idea, no matter how scary it might seem. 

“You have to put yourself out there and make connections,” she says. “Even if some people don’t believe your idea is a good one, you have to believe in it enough to improve it,” she says.

Padala is determined to turn her dream of owning a business into a reality. And she won’t stop until she gets there.