Micky Chen (IBA, 2013)
Eight in 10 recent graduates say they feel unsure about career decisions, and wish they had more work experience that relates to their study. Many struggle, at first, to find their path – I know I did. And at the same time, 92 per cent of startups fail within two years because they lack resources. They don’t have time, skills or knowledge to devote to digital marketing, business research or sales. When I worked at Salesforce, business owners would talk to me about these challenges. They didn’t want to commit to hiring a full timer; they wanted something or someone more flexible.
The big idea
University students have been taught to work independently; they’re trained and self-disciplined. Born in the digital age, they know digital marketing better than anyone. These skills would come in very handy for businesses in need of the abilities of Generation Z. We wondered if we could match up both parties – on a flexible, freelance basis – and help everybody out? Students gain experience, build a strong CV and earn, while companies are freer to focus on growing their core business. Ultimately students will make better-informed career decisions and companies get to meet the future workforce earlier.
We created “Students as a Service”, a digital platform that matches student freelancers – mostly business students we call “High-Flyers” – with businesses in need. If you need help with business development, social media marketing, content creation, SEO or more, you can hire an experienced student on a freelance basis. All will have had some experience – they’ve been on student committees or had a part-time job or internship – and we ask them to complete an optional psychometric test and a one-minute video pitch. Then we’ll have a call with them before they gain full access to the platform.
We are entirely self-funded, with no external investment. My sister and co-founder Linky and I made a deliberate decision to start super-lean. We’ve been live for six months and we’re not actively seeking funding because our current revenue streams are strong enough to continue bootstrapping. We charge companies a 15 per cent service fee on the hourly student rate, and we charge students a 10 per cent administration fee. We’re exceeding our revenue goals, but who’s to say in the future we won’t be seeking investors in order to scale up further?
By 2025 we want to work with 100,000 student High-Flyers. That’s an ambitious target and I know we’ll need effort and resources to get there, but we’re on the right track and RSM has been incredibly supportive. Our initial focus has been on digital marketing, and we have branched out to business development and market research. Our customers are largely in the tech industry, but recently we’ve welcomed many different sectors. If you’d like a low-risk way to meet your future workforce while tapping into the skills of Generation Z, we’d love to hear from you!