Startup Life 101: a Step-by-step Guide to Successful Application.

This is a guest post contributed by Sarun. He’s a graphic designer who recently joined Breezy in San Francisco through Startup Life. For those who want to learn what is expected from the beginning to the end of the application, this is a perfect guide. Follow Sarun on twitter to learn more.

Alright, so you want to apply for Startup Life but still unsure? Feeling anxious? Or perhaps lost? Fear not, this guide will help you out! I too, when applying for this wonderful program had many questions popping up in my mind as some of the information was a bit unclear. Especially after submitting the application, I felt like I just tied my letter to a little pigeon who flew away without saying anything. So I decided to write this little guide to help you new applicants unravel the mystery of the whole process.
I will divide the guide into two parts: Startup Life application and the Visa process.

Startup Life Application

Pre application: go through all the companies that fit your field (design, engineer or business.) Not only in the description provided on the SL website, but their own website. Research about them, use the internet tools at hand. Get to know the CEO – this is actually very important because the face of the startup you will be working with will more or less have the CEO’s personality written over it.
Writing application: go through all the good stuffs in SL blog – there are so many useful articles about how to write good applications and prepare your profile online. Here is one example.

Post application: now you wait. Don’t panic if there is no confirmation for your application or things go quiet for about a week. There are many applications submitted and it takes awhile for SL team to process all of that. Following will happen next:

  • After SL team has assessed your application, they will connect you with appropriate startups. You might be connected to all 5 companies if your profile/portfolio is really good, or none at all.
  • The startups will take a look at your application and profile. If they are interested in you, they will report back to SL team. SL team will send an email to introduce the two parties, so you can set up a good time to have Skype (or other means) of interview. You can definitely have more than 1 interviews.
  • If the interview went well, the startup will get back to you and confirm that they want you to be part of their team (Yay!) Again, you may receive more than 1 offerings, and if so, now you can act like a little bra… oh I mean, princess and pick the one that fit you most. This really depends on each person’s situation, the decision could be based on salary, the product/service they are doing, the CEO or what not. I decided to join Breezy because I felt like they really want me to come and work with them. It was the best decision I made.
  • After accepting the offering from the selected startup, you can also negotiate your salary a bit, SL team will help you with this. You are now in! Hooray!

Visa Application

Visa is one tricky animal. While SL program, Aalto and Stanford names appear on your paper and are super well known and have VERY good credits, it might still be tricky to get a visa, especially if you are a foreigner. And the process is quite complicated, so I try my best to explain here.
After everything is settled, you will be introduced to two parties – CIEE (the agency that facilitate bringing in foreign exchange visitors to the U.S.) representative in Helsinki (Kilroy Education) and the lawyer team in the U.S. They will help you fill in the applications and answering questions you may have.
DS-7002 & Program Application: in DS-7002, you describe what you will doing there during the intern time. If you intend to stay longer than 3 months, you have to explain what you will be doing in EACH period (for example, I applied for the maximum 18 months, so I have to divide my learning plan into 6 periods.)
Program application is basically information about yourself. Be careful when filling out the dates. Some paper, it could be in U.S. format (month before day) and some paper it could be international format (day before month.) I, shamefully, put my date of birth wrong… yes guys, it can happen. Double check every single word. Kilroy will most likely have a short interview with you on phone or in person, depends on convenience.
DS-2019: After filling all these out, you wait. If all goes well, you will be receiving a VERY important document titled DS-2019 (DS stands for ‘Duration of Stay’, in case you are curious) which has all the vital information confirming the duration of your stay, the company you will be interning for and the money you will receive in total. It will most likely take up to 4 weeks before you receive this document, as CIEE people will have to go and check out if the startup you are going to really exists.
With DS-2019, comes a SEVIS fee receipt (it’s like a fee for processing the document for the U.S. government) and Health Care insurance card which covers you the whole period (sponsored by Aalto, big thank you!) Triple check all these documents and see if all the info is correct.

Appointment with the U.S. embassy in Helsinki: apply for the DS-160 online beforehand. Read all about it here (take note, you are applying for J-1 Visa.) As a foreigner, I have to warn that it might be that you have to go back to your home country to apply for the visa – this depends a lot on your situation. Basically, you have to prove to the embassy that you are returning to the country you are returning to – by displaying strong ‘ties’ to such country. For example, if you have to come back to Finland to finish your thesis and get graduated, it should represent enough strong tie.

I, however, did not realize this fact and just answered to the embassy that I wished to return to my home country after the internship which got me rejected for the visa. I had to fly all the way back to apply again in my home country, which was simply a hassle. Answer the questions carefully, no documents can guarantee you at this point. Read more about this here.

If your application went well, you will receive your passport, with visa in it, within a week by mail. And hooray! you are set for the Big Apple! Congratulations!
So that’s it guys, I hope this step-by-step guide has been helpful for you all, and if you want to shoot any questions, feel super free to email me at pinyarat.sarun(at)gmail(dot)com. Good luck and come join us here in San Francisco!

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