Photo: Morgan Dierstein
Many college grads often face a dilemma: choose a job outside of their chosen career that actually pays, or take an unpaid internship.But RentAStudent founder Morgan Dierstein says his startup can help solve this problem.
He’s created a platform where businesses submit proposals for projects they want done, and then students apply for the projects.
Basically, it’s like outsourcing to students.
“When the job market recovers, [students are] going to have had experience, and they’re going to sell that in job interviews,” says Dierstein, whose experience working as a server while he was a student in 2006 inspired the idea. “It’s more marketable to have relevant experience.”
Businesses submit project proposals to RentAStudent’s online database, which detail expectations, deadlines, and a budget range. From there, RentAStudent’s five staffers review the query, assessing its viability, cost, and asking for other details as needed. Once it gets the go-ahead, the project appears in a RentAStudent email sent out to registered student users whose interests and skills — ranging from programming to marketing — match up.
Then, students (whose enrollment at a U.S. school is verified by RentAStudent) apply directly to the posting company through RentAStudent’s web platform. The business reviews applicants, selects one, and agrees to payment terms with the student worker. Then, the two map out the course for the project together, setting deadlines and an overall agenda using the technology platform supported by the site.
Ideally, everybody wins: The company has its project contracted out at a relatively low cost, and a student has a chance at real-world experience that boosts a resume more than hourly jobs might.
French native Dierstein, 28, quit his marketing job to launch the French version of the site early this year alongside a developer who shared his vision. So far, it’s grown mostly by word of mouth spurred by media reports, he says. More than 10,000 students and 1,500 projects are currently in the French site’s database.
Last month, the two introduced the U.S. offshoot, which is funded entirely by revenues from its successful European sister site — RentAStudent collects a comparatively low 15% commission on deals made through it and has taken in more than $40,000 so far. Dierstein, who has relocated to New York City, says he’s seeking out investors in the U.S., too.
“We’re focusing on the U.S. because that’s where we are now,” he says. “It’s where there’s a big market for this.”
Already, more than 1,000 students and 100 companies have signed on to try out the U.S. version of the site.
Dierstein isn’t earning a salary from the project yet. Along with his partner, he self-funded the first site. But he believes he’ll be making money soon, due chiefly to RentAStudent’s low rate for companies posting jobs, quality assurance, and the valuable need it satisfies for students. He also credits the technical features that help student-business tandems set goals and deadlines, and facilitate payment.
So how does the site guard against companies exploiting students, or student-workers not holding up their end of the bargain?
There’s the initial screening of each project and student. Then comes the $99 up-front payment from the company, made when it selects its student contractor. From there, the company and contractor work together to set benchmarks.
That way, Dierstein says, companies pay according to the quality of the work they receive incrementally. Students have to keep up on their assignments (and produce good stuff), so companies can’t be bombarded with a lackluster project at the deadline.
He plans to continue reaching out to media — the young company has already been written up in Forbes and Venture Beat — and using Google Ad Words to build name recognition for his startup. And he’s banking on companies’ needs for quality contracted work, and students’ desire to have something to show for themselves work-wise. Those two things won’t go away any time soon.
Beyond that, Dierstein simply believes he’s the guy for the job. Because of his own experiences, he says, he knows exactly how to play it.
“I’m young enough to remember what it was like when I was a student, but old enough to have company experience,” the 2009 graduate says. “I have both sides; that allows me to build a good product for both companies and students.”
NOW WATCH: Ideas videos
Business Insider Emails & Alerts
Site highlights each day to your inbox.