Majoring in Business and minoring in Computer Science at Carnegie Mellon University (CMU), 2010 Oakdale High School graduate Todd Medema was recently featured in a small write-up on page 7 of the July 2011 issue of Carnegie Mellon Today magazine.
As an OHS Leo Volz scholarship recipient, he was able to pursue his dream of attending the private research university in Pittsburgh, PA. Medema made the CMU Dean’s List for the Spring 2011 semester and has kept busy with a student fellowship, a summer internship, being involved in clubs and teams, and creating startups on his way to attaining his degree.
The magazine feature reported that Medema is the youngest student to date to be selected for a two-year fellowship with a Boston-based venture capital group called .406 Ventures.
“I started at .406 just over a month into CMU. As a student fellow, we’ve learned from industry professions on topics including the legal aspects of creating a company, trends in the tech industry, and how to sell your company to investors,” Medema said. “Our main responsibility is to discover startups and connect them with .406, serving as the explorer and go-between.”
The startups he finds get connected with .406, but he also offers his own recruiting services to the startups through a company he started called StartBridge. He explained that StartBridge interviews students and pairs them with companies that match their interests and the companies spend less time screening candidates.
Medema also just completed a summer internship at Electronics Arts (EA), the entertainment software company that makes Madden NFL and The Sims computer and video games. He said that his strong participation in a group on campus called Game Creation Society (GCS) was a significant factor in getting the EA internship and noted that EA recognized his passion for creating games. He also believes having the .406 Ventures student fellowship on his résumé helped him land the position.
“My role at EA was a producer for Origin, their new platform for digitally distributing games and providing a cross-platform social network for your gaming friends,” he explained. “Among the many things I learned, the biggest lessons were on the front of learning to work as a part of a large team on a mature product, and how to pursue networking opportunities even in a large corporation. As a producer, I was tasked with designing, documenting, and coordinating the implementation of several features, some of which have already gone live.”
Medema had some prior experience in starting new companies, as he started LaserForge Studios – a computer help and web design company, when he was a 14-year-old student at Oakdale High School. He said that when he got to CMU, he quickly founded a group called Recursive Services, where creative students with different majors gather to brainstorm and create “unique and fun” technology.
“Our early projects include a website to check which campus eateries are open, a mobile application to see when the dorm laundry machines will be done, and an LED cube that we’re currently programming to serve as a 3D screen for games,” he said.
The companies and projects he’s been involved in creating haven’t come from classroom assignments. Medema said that while he and the other students involved apply what they’ve learned to everything they build, it’s all been just for fun and done in spare time.
He’s part of a group working with an entrepreneur to do a trial of a smartphone-based loyalty rewards program for small businesses. He has also been working for the past eight months as a product strategist and a software engineer with a startup called AutoRef. He said it helps simplify the car-buying experience, recently went “live” in the Los Angeles area, and is close to seeking venture capital funding.
Medema said he’s not sure at this point what he’ll do after college because there are many potential opportunities he’d like to pursue. He mentioned options such as more internships, being in a startup incubator, traveling, or studying abroad.
“What precisely I end up doing directly out of college will have a lot to do with what I discover during the next few years and summers, but so far I’ve enjoyed working with startups the most,” he said.
When asked about how he juggles his commitments, Medema reported that a lot of his energy comes from doing a wide variety of activities. He said that the more parts of himself that he’s “flexing,” the better he works overall.
“My first year of college has also given me quite a bit of experience in managing schedules – I’m responsible for managing and organizing events with Recursive Services, and have had to coordinate and lead team meetings for things like the Game Creation Society,” he said.
He offered some advice about what he’s learned from his first year of college to other students.
“(Don’t) be afraid to take charge, try things, and experiment,” he said. “You can do a lot more in a group than you can alone, and if you have an idea, people will be willing to follow you and help create it.”
He also participates in the Kiltie Band and Rocket Club on campus. He said his involvement in different endeavors has helped him meet many new people and make a blend of friends.