What Does Business Development Mean at a Startup?

To reiterate what the Marketing and Communications Intern, Laney, explained in the last blog post – interning at AetherWorks does not consist of coffee-fetching and paper-sorting.

My title at AetherWorks is Venture Development Summer Associate, and this summer I’ve been devoting my time entirely to their current venture, AetherStore. My focus is on Business Development for AetherStore, but what exactly does someone do in this position?

The definition not only varies greatly depending on the size and type of startup, but it has become a catch-all phrase that seems to change depending on who you talk to. For me business development means continued, methodical innovation with the goal of growing business opportunities. I work with members of the product, marketing and engineering team to track key tasks and identify customers, manage the deal process, align roadmaps and launch strategies.

For an early stage startup like AetherStore, this is broken down into 3 main objectives:

1. Hypothesize

99% of all successful startup ideas start with an itch, or in the best-case scenario, with a problem that needs to be solved. Dropbox Founder, Drew Houston, was tired of having all his files scattered across his devices. Mark Zuckerberg wanted an easier way of connecting with other students at Harvard. This is where my work starts – identify a problem or “need” big enough that a customer is willing to pay for it, and find that customer. If the problem is not worth solving, create a new hypothesis and start testing that.  This might sound like a gross over simplification of Steven Blanks “the four steps to epiphany,” but at the end of the day what I do is a lot of customer development.

2. Analyze

Last summer working with an education-focused startup on campus, surrounded by thousands of students, I could simply walk out the door and start interviewing people about their problems and solutions. Working with a B2B product, customer development has definitely required more creativity and hard work – spending hours tracking people down on LinkedIn, cold emailing, and running around to NYC tech meetups. However, once you move past the first call, you begin to establish a working relationship with a customer.  You understand their job, their needs, and their problems. Key problems are highlighted and analysis is drawn to filter out the noise so the development team can focus on the right features and best integrations, and we can focus on the right partnerships and channels to deliver the best product experience possible.

3. Focus and Implement

Once we have collected enough information about a consumer segment and their problems, we can start to analyze the data and invalidate or validate our hypothesis, target markets, product features and partnerships. We can create validated strategies for taking AetherStore to market.  The kryptonite for any startup is a lack of focus. This hypothesis testing process ensures that the business team is always focused and doesn’t waste time building partnerships that are not adding value to our business or the consumer; and the development team doesn’t waste time building features that customers don’t want.

As AetherStore is about to release a beta we are all excited to start delivering the product to Early Adopters, and I can’t wait to see what the next half of this summer will bring!

Intern Update: Marketing and Communications

This week marks the halfway point of my internship at AetherWorks. With the end of the summer now closer than the beginning, the realities of senior year are more pressing and require me to think seriously about what I’ll do once I graduate from Brown next May.

In my last post, I mentioned wanting to work for a start-up after graduation. For several months now, that has been my go-to response to questions about my future plans—encouraged by this article I read last summer and the positive experiences of many friends working at start-ups, but unsupported by any personal experience. I’m happy to report that my five weeks of working at AetherWorks has properly validated that statement. It truly is a great working environment.

Being an intern is often associated with mundane tasks, such as coffee runs or stuffing envelopes, but that doesn’t describe my responsibilities as the Marketing and Communications intern. With the AetherStore beta release on the horizon, today’s to-do list is always different than yesterday’s. Though the variety is certainly exciting and exposes me to the complexity of running a start-up, I have most enjoyed working on some of the larger projects because they give my days more continuity and offer a real-time perspective on the process of getting a product to market.

One major project I’ve been working on is the AetherStore Early Adopters Program. A main goal of this project is to collect information from our Early Adopters to help us address specific use cases and tailor the technology for different industries. As AetherStore is still in development, the type of information we collect can significantly influence the direction we take. As a result, my involvement, from promoting the program to setting up calls, has been a great learning experience.

Moreover, my involvement in this program serves as a great tool to measure both the company’s evolution and my personal progress. The opportunity to be put on this type of project as an intern would be unheard of at most places, but with only 9 people in the office, formalities and hierarchy are noticeably absent.

As AetherStore approaches a public beta, things will be picking up quite a bit here. I’m expecting the second half of the summer to be even busier than the first, and I’m excited to see what adjustments will be made to AetherStore as more people try out the software!

Meet Our Summer Interns

AetherWorks offers internships each summer to take full advantage of the fresh perspective and innovative ideas interns bring to the office. In exchange, we want to provide a hands-on learning experience where interns can be fully involved in all aspects of working at a start-up. This summer is no different, and we spent a long time reviewing resumes before finding the two exceptional interns you’ll meet below.

Laney Caldwell, Marketing and Communications

Originally from Birmingham, Alabama, Laney will be a senior at Brown University this fall, where she’s studying Political Science. She spent the past two summers working in Boston for nonprofits, where she focused on marketing and operations. She also works for the Maddock Alumni Center as a student liaison for large-scale alumni events. Laney is a Division 1 Varsity Fencer at Brown and member of Brown Women in Business.

“I want to work for a start-up after graduation, and was particularly interested in working in the tech industry. I think AetherWorks is the right place to get experience because they’ve created an environment that simultaneously supports, challenges, and motivates the entire team. From brushing up on my technical knowledge to working on new marketing strategies, I’m most excited about the sheer breadth of experience I will gain during the next two and a half months watching AetherStore develop.”   


Fredrik Kjellberg, Venture Development

Fredrik is from Stockholm, Sweden, and will be a senior at the University of Michigan this fall where he is completing a double major in Economics and Informatics. He is a co-founder of Michigan International Student Society and active member in the Global Investment Club at the Ross School of Business. He has over 5 years of sales and marketing experience working for OKQ8 in Sweden, where he also had the chance to run a number of small entrepreneurial projects. However, it was not until he was accepted to the University of Michigan’s start-up incubator last summer that he really had the opportunity to test out and launch a number of tech ventures with his team. Fredrik spent the beginning of the summer working with an Intelligence-centric Digital Agency in Stockholm.

FK Headshot“I know I want to work in the intersection of business and technology, and what better way to start than working as a Venture Development Associate for an R&D firm that has both a smart team and some really cool, advanced products and ideas in the pipeline. I am most excited to put my interdisciplinary background to the test working with AetherStore, and also look forward to gaining exposure in the NYC start-up and venture capital world.”



If you’re interested in working at AetherWorks, check out or careers page here!