Sammy Sasaki ’24

AKALA, Beverly Hills, CA

I spent this summer working with AKALA, an EdTech startup with the goal of making college counseling more affordable and accessible. Many high schools don’t have enough—or any—college counselors to adequately support all their students, and private counselors are too expensive for most families. AKALA targets students earlier in their academic career, offering an AI-enabled college admissions counseling platform that helps students across the country navigate the complicated journey to college at an affordable price. I was able to work directly with CEO Perry Kalmus ’03 and assist in the company’s daily operations.

Working with a rapidly growing company like AKALA, the other interns and I had opportunities to contribute to a variety of different projects and learn about typical day-to-day operations of a startup. The first few weeks of the internship were mostly spent organizing and building out the AKALA website, adding videos and other resources that could be recommended to students based on individual interests. Another project we took on was researching, reaching out to and meeting with employees from potential businesses and companies who might be able to offer the AKALA service as an employee benefit. Near the end of the summer, we spent time improving AKALA’s social media presence, brainstorming posts on different platforms.

The internship was fully remote, but my supervisors and the interns were able to meet multiple times a week to discuss progress on our projects and to address any questions or problems we were running into. In general, everyone I met was very responsive and helpful. Since I was working from home in Los Angeles, I had the opportunity to meet some of the team members in person, which I am very grateful for. Overall, the remote nature of the internship did not prove to be much of a challenge thanks to the consistent communication between members of the company.

As someone with no prior experience in the startup industry, my time with AKALA taught me a great deal about entrepreneurship and the EdTech sector in particular. By helping with the company’s numerous projects, I gained a sense of the fast paced, somewhat unstructured nature of running a successful startup. Perry offered us advice from his own career and taught us the basics of building a startup. We were able to assist in drafting a fundraising page and research government grants we might be able to apply to. Perry especially emphasized the importance of networking, a skill I will make use of even if I don’t pursue a startup of my own. While I am still uncertain of what my future career will look like, I know I want to work on a goal-oriented team—likely in a tech-related field—and on a meaningful product that I believe in and care about, as I did during my time at AKALA.

I would like to thank the ’68 Center for Career Exploration and the Case Family for this opportunity. It wouldn’t have been possible without your generosity—thank you.