13 Oct 2020

My experience as Programme Associate at BGV

By Mehdi Mestassi

We are in the last quarter of 2020 and my experience at Bethnal Green Ventures is coming to an end. I look back and realise how unique this year was, on many levels. Obviously, the COVID-19 pandemic has made things quite different. However, I was still able to make the most of this amazing experience – here’s how.

For a while now my goal in life has been to become a social entrepreneur in my home country, Morocco. To that end, being able to work with social entrepreneurs on a daily basis was hugely insightful. I had the opportunity to take a close look at the processes founders go through. What problems do founders face? How do they go about solving them? I will leave BGV with a much deeper understanding of what it means to launch an early-stage company with a social mission.

I strongly believe in the old adage “learning by doing”. I’ve always been a task and results-oriented person, which is one of the main reasons why I chose this internship in the first place. I was quickly given hands-on tasks and found myself in the thick of working at tech for good VC. This meant that I had to get up to speed quite rapidly and adapt to my new environment, which was a very interesting challenge. I always had things to do and no day looked like the other.

That challenge grew even bigger when we had to run the Spring 2020 Programme online because of the COVID-19 Pandemic. To make sure we provided teams with the usual world-class support, I helped with the transition to remote, which meant adapting the format of our sessions, the tools that we use, and the processes we put in place to ensure that we were running as efficiently and effectively as we would in person. I conducted regular temperature check-ins with the participating teams to collect and analyse their feedback to improve the support we were providing. It pushed me to be adaptable and have a good overview of the cohort’s progress and circumstances at all times.

Another feature of the programme that was impacted by the pandemic was the Demo Day event, where startups usually pitch to investors and the Tech For Good community in London. Given that we couldn’t hold events of more than 30 people, we created a remote Showcase pitching event on a platform called Hopin. I had to make sure that the event ran smoothly while creating the networking effect that usually happens in person. I also had to organise an in-person event with the BGV team and the S20 founders to record their pitches and celebrate the end of the programme (safety and social distancing assured). This entailed coordinating everything with all the stakeholders (venue, filming crew, BGV team, catering companies) and making sure I communicated the right information to the right people.

I think I acquired many skills during this internship. However, if I had to name one, it would be work ethic. I was able to work with people who were great at their jobs but were always striving to do better. At BGV, you will always think about what can be improved, which is a great attitude and state of mind to have. You will always think about how to best support the start-ups and learn to go the extra mile. You will work with people who see a lot of value in what they’re doing and have a lot of respect for the people they work with.

When I was younger I watched the movie Dead Poets Society. A quote particularly struck me – That you are here – that life exists, and identity; that the powerful play *goes on* and you may contribute a verse. What will your verse be?” It really got me thinking about my own contribution to the world. What would my verse be?

I realised that many people were asking themselves the same question and were trying to define their verse. For this specific reason, my internship at Bethnal Green Ventures was also a great human experience. I was able to confirm an assumption I had before my internship: anyone can become a social entrepreneur. Indeed, I met doctors, teachers, artists and journalists who were trying to have a positive impact on the world – which was very inspiring.

This was by far one of my most valuable work experiences. I highly encourage you to apply for the Programme Associate role. Don’t hesitate to reach out to me if you have any questions on the position!