Yale School of Management

Internship Spotlight: Ian Veidenheimer ’21, 500 Startups and NYC Mayor’s Office of the Chief Technology Officer

What did you do this past summer? We asked rising second-year MBA students to check in from their summer internships, where they applied the lessons of their first year at Yale SOM.

October 21, 2020

Ian Veidenheimer ’21
Internships: Fellow, New York City Mayor’s Office of the Chief Technology Officer; Research and Strategy Analyst, 500 Startups

Ian VeidenheimerFavorite Yale SOM Classes: Competitive Strategy, State & Society
Clubs and Affiliations: Design & Innovation (leader); Economic Development Club
Favorite Spots around New Haven: Hammonasset Beach State Park and the Yale Center for British Art

This summer, I completed two internships related to innovation in cities. The first was at the  New York City Mayor’s Office of the Chief Technology Officer (MOCTO), and the second was at 500 Startups.

At the New York City Mayor’s Office of the Chief Technology Officer (MOCTO), I was a fellow on the Innovation Team’s Moonshot Program. MOCTO’s mission is to ensure that technology meets the needs of all New Yorkers. The office supports mayoral priorities across four key pillars: universal broadband implementation, digital services for city agencies, tech policy, and innovation.

The fellowship began during a momentous time for MOCTO. In January 2020, the office released the Internet Master Plan, a policy initiative that addressed the digital divide in NYC and the future of technological advancements in the City’s economy (such as 5G). Currently, 40% of city households lack the ideal combination of home and mobile broadband, including more than 1.5 million people who have neither. COVID-19 worsened this crisis of digital access given the sudden urgency of remote education, employment, and healthcare. In response to the pandemic, MOCTO developed the city’s first-ever centralized PPE dashboard and delivered free WiFi plus 10,000 iPads to elderly residents of the New York City Housing Authority. By July, the Internet Master Plan faced new scrutiny: the Black Lives Matter Movement coupled with the $9 billion municipal budget deficit due to COVID-19 renewed public focus on City Hall’s performance and priorities. The mayor nevertheless announced a $157 million investment for MOCTO to implement universal broadband services within 18 months.

As the City double downed on its commitment to equitable broadband services over the summer, I served on the Innovation Team’s Moonshot portfolio, managing pilot programs for broadband implementation and leading strategic plans related to the Internet Master Plan and inclusive economic development.

I am grateful for the insights of Deputy CTO Alexis Wichowski and her team, notably to work incrementally (“demo, don’t memo”), leverage partnerships in times of scarce resources, and find time every week to ground the team in its mission and “deep thoughts.”

Yale SOM provided invaluable training for my summer fellowship, particularly Professor Florian Ederer’s insights into industry dynamics in Competitive Strategy; the Competitor perspective on how unit economics drive stakeholder interactions; and Professor Rodrigo Canales’ lessons on organizational innovation.

500 Startups is a global seed investor and startup accelerator. I worked for the firm’s San Francisco-based ecosystem development team.

While MOCTO exposed me to innovation within the civic sector, 500 Startups offered a window into entrepreneurship and investment in urban markets.

I partnered with Derrick Flakoll, a graduate student at Harvard’s Kennedy School, to build a data-based dashboard for evaluating 50+ economies in which 500 Startups might invest or develop programs for tech-enabled, VC-backed ecosystems. The goal was to use data to identify drivers behind startup growth across different contexts. By layering economic development data on top of 100+ traditional indicators for startup ecosystems, we created a design tool that clarified the realities of various local economies, from Malaysia to Kazakhstan. Key insights were the central importance of social networks and universities in nurturing young startup founders and companies; the importance of both debt and equity financing in nascent startup ecosystems; and the fact that every region has its own path and end goal for startup development.

In many ways, this project for 500 Startups was an exercise in design thinking. We spent weeks understanding the firm’s needs before we realized that a diagnostic design tool would be valuable. I am thankful to Thomas Jeng ’18 for the opportunity to join the firm this summer and collaborate with the company’s global team.

SOM’s Investor and State & Society courses provided crucial insights into capital markets and the many perspectives at play within ecosystem investment. Student clubs like Data & Analytics and Design & Innovation gave me confidence and skills for handling analytical tools during the internship. Lastly, the group of SOM students who worked at 500 Startups this summer was a highlight of my experience, including Ann Boyajian ’21 and Avnee Jetley ’21, with whom I met every Sunday morning to share feedback on our weekly deliverables.

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