Why I’m No Longer Running Internships

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 MBA. How 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.



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