How an entrepreneur-turned-intrapreneur got to innovate within larger organizations

The story of how Karen found entrepreneurial opportunities in all of her jobs and created work where she made a difference and why she believes anyone can create a better job — where they can innovate and make an impact. Her journey of an entrepreneur turned intrapreneur.


The journey started with entrepreneurship.

Karen Holst Entrepreneur Turned Intrapreneur - Start WithinKaren co-founded an edtech company in 2000 called Pick-A-Prof.

A Longhorn and two Aggies, still in college, they were as scrappy as a startup can get. That’s cases of Mountain Dew stacked for an office phone to sit upon. No windows, renting (closet) space from another startup. Several pivots and a Series A round later, they launched MyEdu

They went through another round of funding, had over 2M college students using MyEdu’s services, and were later acquired in 2014. As Karen tells it, it was an amazing, life-shaping adventure in entrepreneurship. Still best friends with her co-founders, she is eternally grateful for the ride. But along with all the awesomeness, it was also hard and oftentimes exhausting. It was the rollercoaster of wins and losses that come with any startup.

Post-acquisition, Karen was ready for something different. She wanted to find a place where she could make a bigger impact, out of the gate. Where she could leverage her entrepreneurially-minded, creative problem-solving self to make a difference — with resources in hand.

That’s when she joined Fuse Corps as an executive fellow heading up educational technology for the California Department of Education. Innovating within a state agency? Yes!

Then pivoted into intrapreneurship.

With the California Department of Education, she got to roll up her sleeves and work within the department and across the edtech industry to innovate and launch new products for students and teachers. Tools like the Digital Chalkboard where educators get connected, collaborate, and share the best practices, resources, and strategies in learning.

Like in a startup, Karen got to do the fun stuff of working with amazing people, building amazing things. But she got to skip the headache of trying to fundraise or set up simple business functions like payroll, etc.

That’s when Karen recognized she found the sweet spot of starting something new, with the resources and support within a larger organization —intrapreneurship.

Post-fellowship, Karen joined IDEO to help launch a new online learning platform, IDEO U. This opportunity turned out to be one of the most fun and fulfilling products to launch. And getting to innovate within a company like IDEO? Dream job.

How to become an intrapreneur?

Looking back at Karen’s career, she has identified key steps to successfully launching new products, services, or businesses within existing organizations. She learned from her failures and has mentored others to help them shape a career where they can create their own entrepreneurial opportunities.

Right where you are, you can create a better job. A job where you can identify entrepreneurial opportunities and make an impact. That’s what drives Karen. Helping people find their entrepreneurial sweet spot, to innovate and be an intrapreneur. Learn how to Start Within.

Start Within – in the media, speaking engagements, and writing.

Karen’s work has been highlighted in media publications including The New York Times, TechCrunch, NPR, CNN, and more. She has spoken at SXSW, COIN, Tech for Schools, EDVenture, and worked with companies and organizations across the public, civic, and non-profit sectors.

Interested in learning more or having Karen speak, reach us here!