bean bags

My experience of interning at a startup this summer

A recent university graduate tells Underground Magazine about the highs and lows of interning at a hot new Clapham tech start-up in this exclusive feature.

I got a £25 a week internship at a company that described itself as “located at the heart of Clapham’s Silicon Valley” on Gumtree. It’s above a chip shop next to the tube. My sister told me that I had to get a job and start paying my way if I wanted to continue sleeping on her couch. It was between the tech internship and modelling a six foot cancerous testicle for the controversial new charity “Fright4Life”. I decided on the internship as I am not good at drama.

On my first day I was greeted by a guy named T_Bolt. T_Bolt was called T_Bolt because of his lightning fast ideas, he said. One of the first things T. told me was to never wear shorts, as shorts were his thing. He offered me a mint and I liked him immediately. As he showed me around I noticed how sticky the floor was. T. assured me that the floor was sticky ‘because of all the ideas’ and that once I’d gotten settled he’d sort me out with my own pair of thinking crocs. I had absolutely no idea what anything he said meant but was excited nonetheless.

bean bags

The “intern’s area” was one of the more tattered bean bags in a room littered with bean bags. T. told me that everyone was very laid back, and that the beans bags reflected this. Most of the bean bags were occupied by people asleep with iPads on their chests. T. told me that they were all geniuses, before showing me his office which was a converted toilet, where the large sink had been made into what he called a ‘creative thinkspace’. He said that the toilet was the perfect workplace for the modern man. His thinkspace was peppered with post-it notes of stickmen karate-kicking army tanks.

There was a computer in the kitchenette, where a man slept soundly in a bin bag on the floor. I asked who the sleeping man was, and T. told me that he was a “Ruby on Rails tech-supremo”.  A 26-inch monitor sat in the sink on top of an exploded microwave.  T. told me that the microwave had been exploded in a team building exercise and that one of my jobs as intern would be to come up with more creative ideas of things to explode. He then asked me if I knew any good rubbish tips nearby, and I said no.

After showing me around, T. took me to a pub called “The Comely Maiden” to celebrate my first day. It was there I discovered that the company was in the business of developing lucrative phone apps. When I asked him what kind, he showed me a video of a man being sick on a rollercoaster, which sent him into bursts of laughter. I felt uncomfortable since the man was very overweight and may have also had a mental disability. T. told me that it was his business to stir the technological pot. I asked him what the technological pot was, and he laughed and said I was “a breath of fresh irony”. He ordered multiple shots of something called ‘Flaming Mess’, and we played several games of Guess the Number.

When we finally left the pub, T. told me that the drinks were coming out of my pay, while he attempted to karate-chop a grounded pigeon. We spent the next 90 minutes trying on hats at a place called Hats, where T. used the phrase ‘fedora the explorer’ six times and bought me an intern’s beanie with a propeller on it. I spent the rest of the afternoon rotating the propeller while trying not to throw up as I didn’t want to make the floor any stickier.

At about 6pm the sleeping people on the beanbags began to wake up and check their iPads. One of them had been sent a  GIF of a rollerblading duck, and was laughing uncontrollably. An androgynous man with a faux-hawk asked me who I was and why was I on Eddie’s beanbag? I asked who Eddie was, and he said that Eddie was an asshole. I told him I was the new intern, and that I’d be happy to help out with anything he needed doing.

Twenty minutes later I was at the top of a dilapidated stairwell playing lookout for faux-hawk man as he scored hash through the door of someone’s flat. He was explaining to the man behind the door that soon he would be rich enough to successfully avoid paying tax, and that this meant he should be given a line of credit. The voice behind the door shouted some aggressive-sounding words back.

On the way back from the botched deal, I asked faux-hawk man what the name was of the company that both he and I worked for. He asked why I cared. I told him that if I went back to my sister without even the name of a company I worked for she would most likely throw me out. He said that they hadn’t finalised the design of the logo yet, but that it looked a bit like the Prince symbol.

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