IntroAmerica had the pleasure of talking to Fredrik Maro, CEO of Evisors, an online platform connecting students with experienced professionals with mentorship opportunities.
In an exclusive interview with IntroAmerica, Maro shared with us his experience of being an international student and an entrepreneur, as well as his tips for the two types of people.
Q: We know you’ve studied in the U.S. as an international student for six years. What do you see as the challenges many international students are facing when competing with American students in the job market?
A: I think the No.1 challenge for international students in America is networking. Coming to America as a foreign student, you generally don’t have the network or people to help you. I was not referring to the people that can give you a job, or refer you to a company, but the people who can layout the landscape for what jobs are available and where to apply, and how to apply. Primarily, this was my problem when I was at UPenn. And my big dream in coming to America was to work in investment banking.
My first two summers, I was completely unsuccessful getting internships in investment banking. Instead I worked back home in Norway at a factory on the assembling line. My junior year, many of my classmates… I thought they weren’t necessarily any hardworking or smarter than I was, but they all got great internships. I just couldn’t figure out why. But eventually I did figure out that they have networks. They knew where to apply, how to apply and what to say at an interview. And I didn’t have that. That’s a major disadvantage.
Q: To your observation, what advantages do international students possess that they don’t necessarily realize?
A: International students are incredibly brave and audacious. If you are raised in one place and you pack your bags and come to another country, it means you’re already very entrepreneurial. You’re willing to take risks. That’s a bold move to leave your family and come to a new country. Many international students don’t realize that they are pretty bold.
Second is cross cultural knowledge. For example, you’re from China, and you come to America with the understanding of the Chinese culture and business landscape. If you saw Uber or something else in America, you could immediately get back to China to implement that idea before any of those companies get there.
International students have unique capacity in their domain expertise–the crossover of cultural understanding, as well as geological expertise. That is huge.
Also, international students tend to be more tenacious. Even more important than being smart is being determined, meaning you won’t give up. International students have a lot but they don’t know that these are the key to success.
Q: You started Evisors when you were at Harvard. What tips would you give to student entrepreneurs?
A: Generally, I think No. 1 is before you start your own company, go around and try to work in a startup first. It’s much better to make mistakes on somebody else’s dime and budget. Work for a startup for 2-3 years first and maybe also work in the industry of your domain expertise. Keep the knowledge of the industry and recognize the challenges that industry has.
Only if you have that kind of deep knowledge of the industry will you probably be able to come up with a solution and might generate a good business. I mean look at these successful entrepreneurs– they started with a high level of technical expertise, like Mark Zuckerberg and Bill Gates, who had PhD-level knowledge of computer science before they started their companies. You can also look to other entrepreneurs who are not necessarily technical experts but have worked in similar areas for many years.
This is the second part of a three-part story on Evisors. Part one features the platform of Evisors. Part three is a review of IntroAmerica’s experience of using the Evisors platform.