I'm 22 and currently doing an internship in a fantastic startup. The founders have a ton of experience and have already exited several successful companies.
They want me to stay in the company but my decision depends entirely on how much I learn/ gain useful experience. Ideally, I would want to leverage that experience later on to build my own company.
Now the question becomes how can I learn the most from them? They know I want to absord knowledge like a sponge but also told me I need to tell them how they can help me do so.
What's the best way to learn from startup founders? Should I just watch how they lead, should I ask them to have regular meetings where I ask certain questions, etc.
Open to any ideas/ suggestions.
Yes, the quick way you learn is by doing. The problem is that when a company invests in you that way to groom you to be a better business person, they want to benefit by keeping you employed and helping them. The first question is for your employers. What is the purpose of their internship program? Knowing it's not for you, what do they expect to gain from having interns? Cheap labor? Are they truly philanthropists? Do they hope to find an injection of fresh ideas? Something they are getting from you, not giving to you.
It is extremely rare that companies put in the structure required to run an internship program that greatly benefits the interns. Those that do are more like apprenticeships, not simply exposure. The intent of those programs is to keep you, not train you so you can go start your own company.
That's why there's business school.
Sure B-school doesn't teach you the same way as direct experience, but that's the game. You work for a company to improve skills. You go to school to learn from a much broader wealth of knowledge sources so you have principles to apply when you encounter unfamiliar situations.
It's too idealistic, but not surprising at 22, that you make the assumption your current employers are the right source for training you thoroughly or that the internship program is meant to benefit you the way you hope.
Good luck. Seriously think about if you were the business owner, what would you use interns for and how would you expect to gain value from having them. Interns aren't cheap labor. It often costs more than having a skilled employee to manage and train an intern. What do companies expect in return for this investment? The company might be a good company, but are you being a good intern?