We take a look at 20 successful entrepreneurs — and where they worked as lowly interns (sometimes unpaid) before making it big.
1. Katia Beauchamp
The cofounder of cosmetics subscription service BirchBox interned at NBC Universal as a summer associate for digital distribution in 2010 — the same year she started her company while an MBA student at Harvard Business School.
2. Kayvon Beykpour
The CEO and co-founder of Periscope, the live video-streaming app, completed two internships before starting college in 2007. He was a summer intern at a media agency and then spent a year interning at software company Autodesk before getting a degree in computer science from Stanford University.
3. Neil Blumenthal
The Warby Parker co-founder and co-CEO was an intern for consulting firm McKinsey & Company in the summer of 2009. He started the eyewear company in 2010 while pursuing an MBA at the University of Pennsylvania’s Wharton School of Business.
4. Sean Combs
Better known as Puff Daddy, P.Diddy, or just Diddy, the hip-hop artist interned at Uptown Records in New York after dropping out of Howard University. He was eventually fired from the record label and started his own successful venture in 1993, Bad Boy Records.
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5. Bill Gates
The billionaire and Microsoft founder had an interest in more than just technology from early on. He was a congressional page for his state legislature in Seattle and later a congressional page for the House of Representatives in 1973, at the age of 18.
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6. Lori Greiner
The Shark Tank and QVC host started out as a journalist before jumping into entrepreneurship. She interned for The Chicago Tribune while still an undergraduate student at Loyola University Chicago.
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7. Elizabeth Holmes
The controversial founder of Theranos interned at the Genome Institute in Singapore doing research on SARS the summer after her first year at Stanford University. Before completing her sophomore year, she dropped out to work full time on her health-tech startup.
8. Ryan Hoover
The founder of Product Hunt, a site that curates new products, started as a social-media marketing intern at e-gaming site InstantAction while still a student at Oregon University.
He rose to marketing analyst and product manager in 2010 before moving to mobile game startup PlayHaven and later starting his own venture in 2013.
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9. Steve Jobs
The Apple founder had a voracious hunger for knowledge since childhood. At 12, he cold-called Bill Hewlett asking for frequency counterparts. The Hewlett-Packard founder agreed to give him the parts and offered Jobs a summer internship at HP as well.
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10. Daymond John
The ‚Shark Tank‘ host and founder of the hip-hop inspired clothing brand FUBU was an apprentice electrician working in the Bronx at 10 years old.
11. Betsey Johnson
The 73-year-old fashion designer and founder of her namesake fashion label started her career working for Mademoiselle magazine the summer after graduating from Syracuse University in 1964.
12. Payal Kadakia
In 2002, she started her first career in finance while still an undergraduate at MIT with a summer internship at investment bank J.P. Morgan. She interned at consulting company Monitor Group (now Monitor Deloitte) the following year. It wasn’t until 2011 that Kadakia founded her membership program for fitness classes, originally called Classtivity — now ClassPass.
13. Andy Katz-Mayfield
The co-founder of shaving company Harry’s started his career as a college intern at management consulting firm Bain & Company — where he met co-founder Jeff Raider. He later worked in marketing and business operations for the National Basketball Association. The duo launched Harry’s in 2013.
Getty / Steve Jennings
14. Max Levchin
The serial entrepreneur who co-founded PayPal, social app developer Slide, and online lending startup Affirm started his career in the Soviet Union. At 13, the Kiev native worked at a local college computer lab as a programmer in exchange for access to the computers after hours.
15. Shan-Lyn Ma
The co-founder of online wedding registry Zola and former senior director at Gilt Groupe was a marketing intern at Yahoo while pursuing her MBA degree at Stanford University. The Singapore-born entrepreneur also worked at an education startup while still an undergraduate at the University of New South Wales in Australia.
16. Kavin Mittal
Prior to becoming an entrepreneur, the founder of Delhi-based messaging app Hike Messenger held several internships while completing a master’s in electrical engineering at Imperial College London.
He was an associate vehicle engineer intern for McLaren Racing, an associate technology manager at Google, and a summer analyst at Goldman Sachs.
AP Photo/Jack Plunkett
17. Elon Musk
The billionaire entrepreneur and Tesla Motors founder held several internships before making it in the big leagues. He was a summer intern at the Bank of Nova Scotia, while still at Queens University in Ontario; an intern at Microsoft Canada; and a video game programmer for Rocket Science Games. Musk later moved to California to start a PhD in physics and interned at Pinnacle Research, an energy storage startup.
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18. Evan Spiegel
The Snapchat founder and CEO worked as an unpaid intern for Red Bull after high school. Later, while completing a degree in product design at Stanford University, he interned at biotech company Abraxis BioScience and worked at software company Intuit.
19. Kevin Systrom
The Instagram co-founder and CEO worked as a technical and business intern at podcasting platform startup Odeo — created by Evan Williams and Noah Glass, who later cofounded Twitter — where he created the Odeo Widget and „otherwise caused trouble.“ He was still an undergraduate at Stanford University at the time.
20. Gary Vaynerchuk
The VaynerMedia founder and #AskGaryVee Show and DailyVee host started out his career bagging ice for $2 an hour in the basement of his family store, Shopper’s Discount Liquors.
He later transformed it into the successful retailer Wine Library before launching his social-media consulting agency and YouTube series.