Enternships provides ambitious and dynamic students and graduates with an opportunity to learn about business and enterprise through work placements in entrepreneurial and innovative environments, from start-ups to global venture funds around the world.
Enternships was pioneered in association with Oxford Entrepreneurs, a student-run society at Oxford University which encourages and supports student entrepreneurship and is one of the largest in Europe. They now have the support of key enterprise agencies and some of the world’s leading student entrepreneurial societies.
Rajeeb, Glad to be finally doing this interview with you, how are you doing today?
Very well thank you – slightly overwhelmed with the amount of work to do but glad that the Christmas holidays are fast approaching!
So can you give us some background information about yourself?
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, giving them a voice in education.
My work in promoting entrepreneurship has led to me becoming one of the first Ambassadors for the 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).
Wow, Talk about doing a lot.
So what were you doing before you started this business?
I graduated from University in June 2008 and started working on Enternships pretty much straight after graduating.
When did you start your business?
The site was running as a basic listing service for a few years however I started working on the concept of it being a formal recruitment portal after graduating. I registered the company in February 2009; launched the beta website in May 2009 and had our ‘official’ launch party during Global Entrepreneurship Week on 17th November where 900 entrepreneurs & graduates go together to celebrate our launch.
What made you start your business? How did the idea come about?
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.
How did you get capital to fund your business?
As an online venture you do not need vast amounts of money to get going. I estimate that it has cost me between £10,000 - £15,000 to get started which has been a mixture of my own savings and financial support from my parents.
What is your business’s USP?
Enternships.com is a portal which connects students/graduates to start-ups and SMEs 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.
Up until now small companies have had to rely on adhoc listing services where often they would be spammed or inundated with irrelevant enquiries; Enternships provides them with a centralised system to manage recruitment in a more targeted manner.
How many people are involved in Enternships?
There are 4 of us working in the team
What are the tools that you would subscribe to young entrepreneurs doing businesses online?
LinkedIn as a means to keep in touch with your business contacts and storing the information on business cards. I have a personal (@rajdey) and business profile (@enternships) on Twitter. We also have a Facebook group for Enternships:
It’s important to embrace the free social media tools which are out there and which help promote your business.
What was your biggest surprise in starting and running your business?
How easy it is to officially set up and start trading (although there is a lot of nitty gritty admin e.g. filing accounts, keeping on top of legislation around employment law etc)
Would you have done anything differently if you could?
I don’t think I regret anything (yet); everything has been a learning experience for me – I am a big believer in learning my doing and making mistakes as you go along. I initially entered into arrangements with suppliers in a naive manner whereby I offered equity instead of cash (as I haven’t gone to raise investment as yet). Offering equity is great however it needs to be carefully thought out and the right agreements and arrangements need to be put in place in case things do not work out later down the line.
What is the most valuable lesson that you’ve learnt so far as an entrepreneur?
The need to develop a strong and multi-disciplinary team around you; you cannot have all the skills / answers yourself so it’s your ability to have support around you which will help you flourish.
What major obstacles and pitfalls have you had to overcome?
Mostly these have been related to delays with the development of the portal and hitting targets however I’d say that they have been blessing in disguise as the initial delay in “soft launching” the beta portal meant we launched at the peak of the graduate unemployment crisis meaning far more interest and coverage of our launch.
What advice do you have for entrepreneurs who are struggling to achieve success? Especially during this time of recession?
Stick at it; the recession provides lots of opportunities to spot broken business models and new ways of tackling existing problems. Tenacity is a virtue and if you have conviction in your idea and belief in yourself just keep at it. It is also important to have a think about what success really means to you – people have different aims and objectives in life and you shouldn’t measure your success against other people but against where you were when you started, where you are now and where you hope to be. Success doenst happen overnight and the entrepreneurs who can weather the downturn are the ones who will emerge the strongest in the long-run. Ultimately some of the best businesses have historically been started in an economic downturn.
You, have achieved so much and so many accolades such as “Goldman Sachs Global Leaders Award” and also “02 X Young Entrepreneur of the Year Award 2009” . How does it feel to win all of these awards?
It’s great to get recognised through these awards and I am truly honoured and privileged to have received them. I should say however they are not the be all and end all. It’s a long and tough journey when you’re starting out – these awards provide you with additional impetus to keep going however you cannot lose sight of your end goal and vision.
What are plans for enternships.com? Where would you like to see it in the next five years?
Over the next 5 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.
What should we be expecting from you in the future?
Who know?! Lots probably…watch this space!
Thanks for your time, good luck and we hope to hear from you in the future.
His Interview on CNN