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Meet the king of internships

by LLB Editor
12th Apr 13 12:01 am

Rajeeb Dey founded StartUp Britain and he’s changing the way firms train and hire

Rajeeb Dey is 27-years-old and has worked with David Cameron, been named the Young Global Leader at the World Economic Forum and has managed to make Lastminute.com founder Brent Hoberman and Dragon Peter Jones happy clients.

As the founder of Enternships.com, a website that provides internships to graduates with entrepreneurial ambitions, he’s got a ton of awards on his mantelpiece including O2 Young Entrepreneur of the Year 2012, Goldman Sachs Global Leaders Award 2006 and one from Channel 4 / NESTA’s “Bedroom Britain Campaign”.

An Economics and Management graduate of Oxford University, he’s also the co-founder of StartUp Britain, an initiative launched by the PM to boost British businesses.

When I meet him at his Farringdon HQ, he seems cagey to reveal the turnover of Enternships and his stake in the company, but is keen to talk about big deals with corporates like O2 owner Telefonica and Santander Bank.

To date, Enternships has worked with more than 4000 companies in over 20 countries. But can he scale this business? I asked him for answers:

Q. Hi Rajeeb, so how did you come up with the idea of setting up Enternships?

While at university I was the president of Oxford Entrepreneurs, the society for student entrepreneurs at the Oxford University. As it was one of the largest student networks, I kept getting approached by start-ups for who wanted to post job adverts. They didn’t have an established brand name or a big HR department but had interesting job offers for students. So, I set up a basic rubbish site and told students to check it out.

After the site started getting a lot of traction it dawned on me that unlike aspiring bankers and lawyers, aspiring entrepreneurs didn’t have have the opportunity to work at a start-up to understand how to build a business from scratch. Therefore, I renamed the site to Enternships to feature internship opportunities in small companies.

By the time I graduated, 100 companies had already advertised on the site. So, I decided to make a business out of it.

Q. That’s great! Where did you get the funding?

Starting a web venture is easy and cheap, you run it from your bedroom and don’t pay yourself a salary. Once companies started coming in to post adverts, I raised a small amount from friends and family to get an office space and employees. In 2011, I raised some money from private investors to grow the business.

Q. What’s your business model?

Companies pay £80 for a basic listing and £140 for a premium listing. We also build microsites for companies who want to offer internships initiatives. Another revenue stream for us is running recruitment programmes where we post adverts, go on campus and select interns for the company.

Q. So when did you get your big break?

I think organising an enternship scheme for Santander Bank was our big break. The initiative partners with 65 universities to provide entrepreneurial internships to final-year students and recent graduates. The bank contributes £1,500 funding to businesses participating in the programme.

The other milestone for us has been a partnership with Telefonica, which will offer 130 six-month paid internships at its various Wayra Academies, an accelerator programme for start-ups. Eight positions are available in London and at other countries including Munich, Dublin, Madrid, Barcelona and Prague.

Q. How much money did you spend on marketing?

We haven’t spent much money on marketing. We get a lot of repeat customers and good recommendations that help the business. Media coverage like being named in the “The Top 75 Websites For Your Career” list in Forbes also helps in making a shout about the business.

Also, I am a big fan of networking and firmly believe in that ‘it’s not what you know, it’s who you know’ that gives you a leg up in business. From my time at university, I attended a lot of networking events. In fact, I met Dragon Peter Jones who later became a client.  

Q. Why did you decide to set up StartUp Britain?

StartUp Britain is all about creating a more entrepreneurial culture in Britain. We work with big corporates like BT, Iris, PayPal and Intuit to help businesses in everything from finance to advertising, marketing and broadband.

We expect 500,000 businesses will launch this year and the campaign organises events and tours to support as many businesses as it can. Whether it be launching or scaling a business, entrepreneurs can go through resources on the website and get in touch with us. We’ve had some rave reviews from start-ups and it’s going pretty well.

Q. How is it to work with David Cameron?

David has really helped us to shout about StartUp Britain’s work to boost entrepreneurialism and its efforts to make an enterprise-led recovery. In 2011, I acompanied him and Lord Green on a business delegation to Africa and learnt so much about their economy and the opportunities to do business there, it was fantastic!

Q. Are you happy with the Government? How can it better help start-ups?

I think the budget was encouraging especially the extension of SEIS and the tax breaks for social enterprises – but there’s a lot more the government can do to help us.

The government is one of the biggest consumers of small business and then we here the rhetoric about 25% of central government procurement spend through SMEs, I haven’t seen that so much in action.

My other complaint is the amount of time it takes to do a tender document. I think getting rejected over an arbitrary field that you didn’t fill in correctly is just absolutely ridiculous.

Also, from the time you start a business you receive a whole series of letters from HMRC with reminders and deadlines.I think it should actually be the opposite, the government should say “Congratulations on starting a business, we’re here to help you”.

So, what your solution to the unemployment crisis we have today?

My solution is ‘Unrecruitment’, a new recruitment model. You see, for every person hired, an average of 80 are rejected and the the head of recruitment becomes actually the head of rejection. It’s not that young generation doesn’t want to work, a flurry of rejections makes them under-confident to maximise future opportunities.

What we need to do is a come up with a process where every applicant should be given an opportunity to train and hone his/her skills. This way though only one person can get any given job, everyone applying would be able to benefit from the process.


Unrecruitment model

Q. What challenges did you face to grow the business?

I didn’t have a tech co-founder so I was naive enough to give away a lot of equity to a development agency who were helping me build my site, I think that was a big mistake. I had to buy them out to grow the business. Also, I found hiring the first set of employees and managing people challenging but now we have a great team.

Q. What are the future plans of your company?

Over the next few months, we want to expand internationally with Wayra to countries including Spain, Germany and Czech Republic. We’ve hired native speakers to service those markets and look forward to students coming here. We also plan to champion the Unrecruitment model to get more businesses to adopt a more training-led recruitment method.

Great! Thanks for your time Rajeeb!

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