Why I’m No Longer Running Internships

Why I’m No Longer Running Internships post image

Our little company was just starting to pick up steam back in November of 2009. That’s when I first considered the idea of running paid internships.

Even though we were starting to get some momentum, we never thought to pay ourselves more. Our first priority was always to build our team. To this end, we offered design internships for college credit back in our California office, and traveled to Asia in search of affordable software developers and online marketers.

While seeking software developers in the Philippines, were having an absolute blast– daily tennis matches, motorcycle trips, beaches, and spectacular parties.

Just a few years before, I would have done anything to have be a part a business like ours. My guess is that the conversation that sparked the intern idea was a Filipino PHP developer telling me he wanted to make $1,000 a month.

A few years ago, I would have absolutely worked for 1,000 bucks a month to live this kind of lifestyle.

I did what any sensible internet marketer would do. I logged into my GoDaddy account.

It’s like getting your MBA, but in the Tropics. 

*  *  *

It wasn’t long before I became known as the intership guy.

We tried our best to facilitate this model, helping Chris Ducker, Sean Cooney, and Joe and Justin from the AdsenseFlippers.com (among others) to recruit some amazing talent to join their businesses in the Philippines.

As far as I can tell, their efforts so far have been extremely fruitful. A lot of effort, resources, and trust have been committed by all parties.

We’ve also done alright ourselves. In one way or another, we’ve had 9 young people join our company here in Asia. Some as light duty consultants (read: beer drinking buddies), and some as heavy-lifting full time employees.

“When are you going to run your next internship?”

Because of our track record, I recieve 2-3 emails a week from aspiring entrepreneurs asking when our next internship will be. My answer lately has been crappy.

I don’t know…

Since day one, we’ve always had way more applicants than mentors. Many of our internship opportunities have received over 50 applications.

We’ve learned that it’s not so easy to host an internship. Despite many entrepreneurs telling me it’s a great concept, telling me it’s a bigger idea, I just can’t convince more people to do it.

In business it’s often more important to watch people’s feet than their mouths.

Our experiment with TropicalWorkForce.com (now defunct) taught me further that I shouldn’t be pushing this stuff. Too much was at stake to connect people who I didn’t personally know and trust. So here’s my final word for a while on internships:

  • We’ll continue to recruit new team members from the blog. Those opportunities, as they have been since day one, will be few and far between, and posted here in detail as they come up. No position is currently on my dashboard.
  • For entrepreneurs considering hiring their own intern with a method similar to the Tropical MBA model, please give it a try. Our experience with our TMBA interns has been nothing short of life-changing. I’m sure much of the success our business has seen in the past 24 months is due to the bright people who took the time to work with us.
  • My mission isn’t fundamentally to dig up internships, it’s to help people grow great businesses. And I am putting more resources to that end than ever before. Currently we are working through our podcast, our private forum, and our brand new Tropical MBAHow do you travel the world from your laptop? Our new answer will be: You develop a tight network of knowledgable, supportive colleagues who can help guide you to the success you seek. The jury is still out on whether or not this experiment will work. I’ll be working hard to make sure that it does.
  • If you want an internship, you’ll need to go dig one up (and I know you can do it). I could give you a roadmap but Charlie already created one. For people looking to get their start in entrepreneurship, this is one of the single best pieces of content I have ever seen on the web. Grab some popcorn and take some notes. If you think I help you in your pursuit of an internship, don’t hesitate to drop me a short and specific email.
  • And if we ever do meet in person, and you are legit-sauce entrepreneur, know that I will still try to convince you to create a paid internship of your own. And I will offer to promote it for you. And I will write about it. And I will wait for you for a few years until you do it. Because it’s just so dang hard to convince you guys, but it’s totally worth it.

So for now, if you want to learn how to grow a business from me, come join me in the Philippines. I have no idea when our next internship will be, or if we’ll ever have one. Anyway, next time we’ll be looking for a “team member,” not an “intern.”

Onwards and upwards.



PS, I love twitter.

PPS, you can hop on my private mailing list here:

Published on 07.10.12
  • At first I was disappointed to see the headline, Dan, but your reasons for it make a lot of sense to me. Thanks for sharing this!

  • Dan, thanks for sharing your thoughts. I hear you loud and clear that it is HARD BLOODY WORK getting something like this planned and done. The feeling of responsibility to the people is very heavy.

    Good luck with whatever you do. Now that I have a lot more free time on my hands, I hope to visit you guys out there one day and be a drinking buddy as well!

    Cheers, Sam

  • JustinWCooke

    I was a little bummed to read this post. I know that you’ve taken the TropicalMBA in a new direction. (and leveled-up, I think…helping out almost a dozen entrepreneurs at a time. It’s less about feeding the man and more about teaching him how to fish now, I think…)

    Still…there’s something about the Internships that I’d hate to see go away. Trying to convince others to take on an Intern does sound like an uphill battle, but once they’ve done it the value and rewards become quite clear.

  • I can see big things happening. Imagine running a business school out of the tropics. I think that will happen and you’ll be very successful. I’d definitely sign up for a class one day.

    If you’re going to be running lots of these schools per year, I hope you end up concentrating more on this blog to drive new entrepreneurs. I love LBP, but this is great too. Good luck.

  • As the “light duty consultant” of the 9 I can say that the TMBA internship was exactly what I needed to make a big change in my life at exactly the right time. I am still IN LOVE with the model and will look for ways to implement internships into my business as it grows.

    Thanks for the camaraderie, knowledge, laughter, and oh yeah the beers were pretty good too…

  • Dan

    haha, thank you Damian, I’m so glad to have met and look forward to hanging out again soon.

  • Dan

    Cheers Jamie thanks for the encouragement.

  • Dan

    Justin, I’m so glad you and Joe put your biz out there to the world and to aspiring entrepreneurs, you guys are really doing a lot to change people’s lives, and there just aren’t many people like that. I’m going to keep fighting to good intern fight, but I’m going to build TMBA to be about something broader!!! BTW< if you want to run another internship, EMAIL ME!!! :D I'm applying…

  • Dan

    Thanks Sam. BTW, congrats on your recent move!! It’s true regarding the responsibility, there has been a lot of ‘heavy’ experiences, but part of me thinks that’s par for the course when you are really doing important things. It’s hard to get other people to be ‘heavy!’ Let’s have a beer man! Come on out… :)

  • Dan

    Cheers Jeffrey thanks for all your support !

  • James

    I think the direction you’re going in with TMBA is awesome. Could the internships exist in parallel to that?

    So interns to the Tropical MBA could support the entrepreneurs who attend with their existing design/SEO/copywriting/whatever skills but the TMBA could outsource these people as VA’s etc? The revenue would provide them with a living while supporting the TMBA facility. Basically you are building a ‘supply chain’ for entrepreneurs while helping the people in the supply chain be surrounded by entrepreneurs. Would definitely appeal to freelancers who havent quite made the jump yet.

  • Dan

    Hey James, very interesting idea to me, I’ve been kicking around similar ideas for at least a year now. It’s for sure a huge opportunity to leverage the abilities of educated people who want “adventure gigs.” Part of it for us is an issue of focus and how serious we want to be about it. Since things have only recently become slightly more than a beer drinking party, I’d rather pay qualified people or bring in experts to help facilitate our teaching stuff… the truth is that if an entrepreneur wants to pay some person 1,000 to 1,500 bucks a month to do basic web marketing and travel while they do it, it’s a relatively easy thing to execute (business wise), so by forcing the model down people’s throats i’m not providing a ton of value. Another way to frame it up– if I did do this, I’d probably put the ‘interns’ on my staff, and instead charge people directly for their services, that feels more tenable, but still not good. Anyway, I’m still open to this stuff, interesting line of thinking…

  • Dee

    Hi Dan, I have been following TropicalMBA for quite some time now. By the way, I am from the Philippines and have been freelancing and “flashpacking” since 2009. I started a small online writing service and still doing it today (which has become my bread and butter). I was really looking forward to joining a possible internship and feel that it is the next best thing to do to grow my business. I hope they’d be an opening soon. You guys are awesome and inspiring. Cheers!

  • Dan

    Hey Dee thanks for the shout!!! Appreciate you reading the blog, best of luck with the business as well.

  • Tina Garcia

    You should do this again! I wish you really knew me, I would be
    peeeerfect for this job! I mean seriously- its about the job. I live a
    fabulous life with a wonderful job on Oahu, Hawaii. However, what you
    are doing is so AWESOME. Hope to one day get the opportunity to work for
    you, but most importantly LEARN from you!!!

  • Dan

    Thank you Tina!

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