Three undergrads launch internship-matching site
Nationwide job board assists students in opening the door to their 'dream placement'
| 10 December 2008
BERKELEY — College students hunting for challenging internships, and companies seeking bargain-rate, up-and-coming talent from across the country, are meeting up online via a new website created by a trio of Berkeley undergrads. Launched Nov. 4, InternshipIN already has close to 400 listings from small (and not-so-small) enterprises, largely focusing on Web-based services.
Listers include the match-making site itself (seeking one "online community manager" and an unspecified number of "InternshipIN ambassadors.") Others range from Kmart to FanDome.com, a Manhattan-based sports website offering a graphic-design intern the chance to get into "a sweet career at (almost) the ground floor" — and a steady supply of free Diet Coke.
InternshipIN's oldest founder, Arielle Scott, 19, is an interdisciplinary-studies major whose passions (technology, business, psychology, architecture…) defy containment. Over the summer, her dream was to establish a niche for herself at a small startup, where a lowly intern would have a decent shot at making her ideas happen. But how to find her dream placement?
Sophomore Jessica Mah, a computer-science major, suggested they use readily available Web 2.0 tools to create their own Web-based service dedicated mainly to internships at startup companies. Then and there, the two started a mock-up. Taking it to the next stage, Mah joined with computer-science major Andrew Su, 17, to begin coding their brainchild. Two weeks later, they launched, at a cost of about $500.
The following morning, The Washington Post ran a TechCrunch review of the spanking-new site. Writer Erick Schonfeld had some day-of-launch nits to pick, among them that the site was merely scraping and aggregating listings from other websites. Ironically, his posting helped InternshipIN attract its own offerings.
"We had about 100 employers sign up that day," reports Scott.
By default, the site determines a user's location (by IP address) and lists internships in that area. So if you're looking at InternshipIN from Berkeley, the home-page displays umpteen Bay Area internships. But enter "New York" in the search field and you'll learn about opportunities there, especially in advertising, fashion, and entertainment — a big plus for West Coast students hoping to work in the Big Apple, notes Scott. Using InternshipIN, students are already communicating with East Coast employers about summer '09 internships, she reports. "I'm like, 'Whoa, it's already happening really quickly!' "
Since launch, InternshipIN's founders have been adding enhancements to the site: Students can now upload résumés for employers to review, and can send listings to friends who might be interested in, say, a "social-media specialist" internship or a start in supply-chain management. And they recently launched a feedback forum, where users can suggest and rate new features.
As ideas flow in, says Mah, the "key" is to differentiate what would merely "be cool" from new features that will actually be useful. As a blogger who says she was "always technical" — "always" dating back at least to high school, when she ran a server service for small companies — Mah reports that the InternshipIN team has decided to prioritize requests "from most to least important, and work on them in priority order. The ability to rate listings, for example, seemed less important than the ability to target listings by location (which we spent a lot of time improving)."
She and Scott are also working hard to get the word out, and to explore companies' willingness to pay a small fee for their new service. "If it begins to scale, we're going to begin incorporating," says Scott, a self-described, and evangelistic, "Web-based entrepreneur."
By interning at start-ups, she says, students "get first-hand experience in what it's like to start their own company. You're working directly with the CEO, most likely. It adds to the entrepreneurial spirit of an individual."