Rajeeb Dey, 24, is a founder of Enternships.com. This amazing young man from UK bagged the 2009 O2 X Young Entrepreneur of the Year, an accolade recognizing young entrepreneurs making an impact in a challenging climate. He was the longest-serving President of Oxford Entrepreneurs, Europe’s largest university entrepreneurship society and founded English Secondary Students Association (ESSA) at the age of 17. While in his journey to turn Enternships into a global brand he has attracted support from established entrepreneurs like Lord Bilimoria, Peter Jones and Lastminute.com Co-Founders Martha Lane Fox and Brent Hoberman and Luke Johnson of Channel 4.
Tell us a bit about yourself – your background, education and organizations/initiatives you are involved with?
I am the Founder & CEO of Enternships.com. I recently turned 24 and graduated with First Class Honours in June 2008 from the University of Oxford in Economics & Management. Whilst at University I was the longest serving President of Oxford Entrepreneurs, one of the largest networks of student entrepreneurs in Europe.
I have been heavily involved in social entrepreneurship and youth participation matters from an early age. At the age of 17, I became the Founder & Chairman of the English Secondary Students’ Association (ESSA) – the first national student run organisation empowering secondary school students aged 11-19 by giving them a voice in education (www.studentvoice.co.uk)
Since then I have been passionate about promoting entrepreneurship in the UK and beyond. My work in this arena has led to me becoming one of the first Ambassadors for Enterprise UK’s “Make Your Mark Campaign”. My other roles include being a Trustee of UnLtd – the Foundation for Social Entrepreneurs; Trustee of the Phoenix Education Trust; a Commissioner on the Carnegie UK Trust’s Inquiry into the Future of Civil Society; Education Advisory Board Member for Channel 4; and an Advisory Board Member of the UK-India Business Council (UKIBC) Next Generation Network.
What is Enternships.com? How did you come up with such a cool and meaningful name for your site?
Enternships.com is a portal which connects students/graduates to start-ups and SMEs (small and medium enterprises) worldwide who provide entrepreneurial work placements (“entrepreneurial internships”). SMEs struggle to find talent and lack the recruitment budgets of “blue-chip firms” to undertake the traditional ‘milkround’. Enternships therefore provides these companies with visibility on campus and serves as a central place for start-ups to reach out to talent.
Enternships.com started as a simple listing service which I set up as President of Oxford Entrepreneurs (one of the largest networks of student entrepreneurs in Europe). Companies were approaching me to advertise opportunities as they were keen to reach entrepreneurial candidates. Over time it became evident that more and more small companies wanted to reach students and with no proactive marketing, word of mouth led to over 160 placements being advertised. It also became clear that in the current job market with less roles available in large corporations it’s time to look to the ‘long tail’ of industry.
I was very conscious the Enternships would be more than just a ‘jobs board’ – we’re about creating a culture change. Therefore I decided to make up a new word – ‘enternship’ – with the view that it will eventually enter the dictionary!
Has entrepreneurial spirit always been in your blood?
I suppose so; I’ve never been one to accept the status quo and always like to look at alternative ways of tackling problems – something most entrepreneurs do. My parents tell me that I’ve always been a bit stubborn and like doing things my own way – again a classic entrepreneurial trait!
Currently ‘Enternships’ seems to be free service. What is your business model?
Once we achieve critical mass we will start charging companies to list on the site; we will also look for sponsorship deals and advertising revenue as well as white-labelling the portal for use by universities/careers services keen to engage with local small businesses.
What are the challenges to grow Enternships? What are your biggest needs to get your startup to the next level?
The biggest challenge I have faced has been on the technical development of Enternships. I am personally not able to do programming and thus have to rely on our outsourced developers to deliver what they have promised and on time. Bringing the technical function in house would be a medium term objective, but since we’re a bootstrapped pre-revenue venture this may take a bit of time.
Another challenge is communicating to the SMEs and creating the mind-set that students/young people can add value to a firm. There are millions of SMEs out there and many would never have considered taking on students/graduates for short term placements/full-time hires. This may be due to lack of a simple way of attracting these candidates or because they do not see the ‘value-add’ or have the financial resources. We want to encourage them by showing examples of successful placements and the benefits students can add to a firm. Saying that , the initial response to start-ups to Enternships has been extremely encouraging!
You have achieved great success at a very young age. What are the future plans for Enternships and yourself?
Over the next few years I would like the word ‘enternship’ to be widely recognised and become increasingly common parlance to describe work placements in entrepreneurial environments (start-ups and small businesses). I hope that we will become the definitive place for students and graduates around the world to find the hottest work opportunities and just as future lawyers, accountants, bankers etc look for internships I want Enternships.com to be the first port of call for all aspiring entrepreneurs and those who want to learn firsthand about business. I have global ambitions for Enternships but this will obviously take time.
Good luck Rajeeb! I wish that ‘enternship’ enter the dictionary one day.
Rajeeb’s social profiles:
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