Spearheading Smith Innovation: The Startup Consulting Group

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Endi Mato ‘19

Founder of the Smith Startup Consulting Club

Endi Mato ‘19 is a senior Economics and Government major pursuing a Global Financial Institutions concentration. This international student hails from Pogradec, Albania, and though she’s lived away for many years, she still goes back to visit her family. She chose Smith for its link with Sylvia Plath, whose journals she has long been interested in. While here, she’s enjoyed the open curriculum, which has allowed her to take classes in anything from Chemistry, to Logic, to Government and Finance. Endi is fresh off a year doing study abroad, first in Washington, DC, and then in Geneva, Switzerland. She’s passionate about innovation in all fields from nuclear policy, which she’s been known to talk non-stop about, to business consulting. Endi is now running the Smith Startup Consulting Group - an initiative of the Consulting Club.

Being raised in a family of entrepreneurs, Endi was always curious about how businesses work in different parts of the world and how to make them more sustainable. This curiosity has only grown since she began her studies at Smith, and has led to her start her own experiential project combining practical experience for consulting with entrepreneurship. Although the Startup Consulting Group was not her idea, Endi was the one bringing it to life and has since taken on the leadership of the new initiative. Originally, the idea was to start a market-disruptive venture that addresses the gap in the industry between entrepreneurs and students who are interested in consulting. “Those things are both currently encouraged, but separately,” Endi says. The goal of the new initiative is to bring those who need practical skills to a forum in which they can gain experience. “This is a way to add a little bit of experiential learning to that trajectory for students who are interested in startups, or technology, or business management, or, really anything…” She trails off and laughs. Endi then explains the very essence of the idea:

“Basically, its just two needs complimenting each other. We’re a meta startup - a startup providing help for other startups.”

The group currently has ten students and together, they attend any and all entrepreneurship events in the Pioneer Valley, of which there are many. So far, they’ve been to events like the Valley Venture Mentors Community night, River Valley Investors Meeting and the Grinspoon Foundation’s annual Entrepreneurship Initiative conference. For many of these events, they’ve relied on the Conway Center for logistical resources and help connecting to fellow entrepreneurship opportunities in the Pioneer Valley. They conduct weekly training sessions on different aspects of startups, including business model planning, financial analysis and legal resources. In the spring, they plan on providing advising to Draper Competition participants.

Currently, the group’s biggest difficulty is getting everyone in the same room at the same time, a challenge that arises from the fact that all members come from different disciplines ranging from Biochemistry to Architecture. As a collection of high-achieving Smith students, Endi knew this would be an issue from the beginning; but she’s got huge plan for the group. She excitedly explains the idea to add an educational component by teaching a two-credit course on the topic, designed to give credit to students for something outside of their discipline, similar to courses offered by Smith’s Design Thinking Initiative. Endi’s biggest goal for this brand-new venture is to help it grow as an established initiative, beyond just a student org, and beyond even just Smith. She’s graduating in the spring, but states very clearly that a smooth transition in leadership is one of her biggest priorities.

If there is one thing Endi has learned from her experience with innovation and entrepreneurship, it’s that whatever background, skillset, or idea someone comes from does not matter—their determination is what matters. That determination must be applied to learning, growing and challenging oneself.

“Entrepreneurship and innovation can take many forms but no two journeys look the same: you never know what yours will look like until you try.” If one thing is clear, it is that Endi’s journey is well on its way


 

Endi Mato ‘19

Endi is an Economics and Government major. After she graduates , Endi plans to work in economic consulting. To her, entrepreneurship means bringing an innovative idea to life: it’s one of the most challenging, yet powerful ways to make a lasting impact on communities. As someone who thinks of herself as a social innovator, Endi’s passion is finding unique solutions to social problems, whether that is how to make nuclear reactors more secure, or how to increase legal aid to pretrial detainees in Myanmar.

Connect with Endi on LinkedIn