Student Startup Collaboration
Here you can find relevant information and resources relating student-startup collaboration
Students are an essential talent for innovation and startups, and startups provide a critical domain for students. By working with startups, students can gain unique experiences, which are also very attractive to spice up any CV. There are many different types and cases of student-startup collaborations - internships, part-time employment, master thesis projects and so on.
Below, we will outline the different types of collaborations that exist, and some guidelines for what to consider when entering a collaboration.
Different types of student-startup collaborations:
Internships and Part-time employment
Internships and part-time employment usually concern bachelor and master students, and are often the easiest way to involve students in your startup.They can vary in scope and timeframe, and are often either related directly to the students educational program or as a supplement to this. As a startup, there is also often a notable difference in what you can expect in terms of prior experience and domain knowledge from a bachelor vs a master student, so make sure you find the right match for you.
There are several ways an internship might look like, and we will here list three possible ways:
- Short term internships as part of the students educational program.
The structure might vary a bit between different educational institutions, however a common way is that the students are signed up for a more practical or interactive course as part of their study program, where the purpose is to find an external project to work on over a set amount of time, in collaboration with an external supervisor/company. The time frame can vary from everything from 1-3 days a week over an entire semester, to 5 days a week full time over a set amount of weeks. In both cases often resulting in some form of academic delivery at the end. If the internship is part of an educational program, salary is in most cases not included or expected, but the focus is mostly on the student's learning outcome.
- Internships on the students and/or startups own initiative.
In some cases an internship might not be part of the students educational program, however they themselves choose to get engaged with a startup in some way or the other in order to gain more hands-on working experience alongside their studies. A startup might also reach out to the student. In such cases, it’s up to the startup and the student together to decide on the terms of the working agreement. Sometimes the startup can offer a symbolic salary whilst other times salary might not be involved and the student is happy to work simply to gain valuable experience and spice up their CV. Further down the line, if the student does a good job and matches the team well, they could end up being hired or maybe get offered shares in the company. In any case, an internship agreement ought to be in place.
- Summer internships.
A summer internship typically takes place over the summer holidays and often serves as a paid internship, so it works as a summer job for the student. This is a unique possibility also for startups, perhaps mostly for those past the very early stages, not just for larger established companies. The students get to challenge themselves through working on a specific project throughout the summer, and the startup gets a great resource to the team in a period of the year which otherwise (in Norway at least), typically is quite quiet. Although summer internships might be the most common in Norway, it is also possible to have paid internships other times of the year.
Part-time employment on the other hand, is often announced as an open job position any time of the year, and is often either paid, or that the student can work for shares or similar. This is up to the startup to define depending on their current situation and motivation behind the employment. If the student agrees to work for shares, they ought to show a high degree of commitment, preferably for a longer run.
Both internships and part-time employment have the potential to lead to future full-time employment within the startup, hence working with students serves as a great source for recruitment. Given of course, that both parties are satisfied with the work done, have the same motivation and most importantly, that the student and startup team get along very well.
In general, students are a great source of talent for startups. Students are - more often than not - hungry for experiences, full of motivation and new knowledge and perspectives that are valuable to startups. Whether you are hired in a part time position or have a summer job, there is no doubt that working for a startup will provide you with a unique experience, and a good understanding of working life after graduation. In startups, you are not bound to a single role. You will be given a position and responsibilities, and become a central part of the team for a shorter or longer time period, depending on the type of internship or employment. More often than not, you will also be given the opportunity to explore other tasks and roles. While working for a startup can be challenging - there is no doubt about the reward, both professionally and personally. Startups also provide ample opportunity to network, get close with clients and other industry actors. Such connections are helpful when applying for jobs later in your career.
If you are a bachelor or master student who is preparing to write their thesis, one option (that more and more choose) is to write their thesis while working for a startup or other company. Whether your thesis is in the humanities, engineering and technology, computer science or science, chances are that there are startups out there looking for student talent like you. By writing your thesis based on a case, such as a startup, your thesis will be unique and you will get an exclusive opportunity to collect data for your thesis.
What is important to remember when writing your thesis with a startup is the agreement between you, the university and the startup. The contract needs to specify the role of the student in the startup, the percentage position the student is hired in, who owns the data collected in the thesis, and of course, how much time the student will be given to dedicated study while employed at the startup. In many cases, the CEO or CTO in a startup can function as a second supervisor for the thesis - providing valuable feedback in data collection and analysis.
Checklist for Students
- Are there any existing guidelines for student internships at your University?
- What is your main motivation for engaging in an internship? You should be clear about that.
- Does the startup have resources to mentor you through your internship?
- Is there a feasible project for you to work on within the startup, either to gain practical experience or as a case study for your thesis?
- Set clear expectations for the collaboration and clearly define your field of interest.
- Arrange a meeting with the startup to set expectations, decide on how you are going to communicate, and develop a clearly defined set of meeting points, roles and responsibilities adhering to the agreed position.
- If you will work with confidential information during your employment, sign a mutual NDA protecting both your intellectual property rights.
- Check if your university operates with any standard internship agreement, and if not, ask the startup what they usually operate with. Often in connection with the NDA.
- Make sure you familiarize yourself with the startup and its team.
- Make sure to follow up whenever the startup and/or university are trying to get hold of you.
- Don’t be afraid to ask questions when in doubt, or if something comes up, and don’t be afraid to take initiative - most employers, also startups, love such engagement.
Checklist for Startups
- First question - internship or part-time employment?
- What are your economical and development status and boundaries? This will most likely influence what type of student collaboration you can take on.
- Depending on the type of internship, are you actually able to bring the student in for the full set time period or might there be difficulties within the next couple of months?
- Are there any existing guidelines for student internships at your startup?
- Are there any existing guidelines for student internships at their University you should be aware of?
- Who is your contact point at the university if need be?
- If the internship is in connection with an educational program, make sure you are familiar with the course in question, its terms and expectations.
- Does the startup have resources to mentor a student through the internship? Very often, having the necessary lead competence on board, wether tech or other, is important in order to follow up properly and hence get the best possible results.
- What does the role as external supervisor entail? What is expected from you?
- Set clear expectations for the collaboration. Arrange a meeting with the student to set expectations, decide on how you are going to communicate and develop a clearly defined set of meeting points, roles and responsibilities adhering to the agreed position.
- Listen to the student’s field of interest within your company and discuss with the student how he/she can contribute most effectively to your organization.
- Startups should be respectful and mindful that the student has academic obligations and will only dedicate an agreed upon hours per week working for the startup
- Make sure the difference between the academic deliveries and any other confidential material or results are clearly defined.
- Who owns the data?
- If the student will work with confidential information during his/her employment, sign a mutual NDA protecting both your intellectual property rights.
- Check if the university operates with any standard internship agreement, and if not, you should make sure you have one yourself. Often in connection with the NDA.
Want to know more about student-startup collaboration? Watch our previous webinar, NORA.startup webinar #17: Student-Startup Collaborations - Accelerating Innovation, where we invited Luca Oggiano - CEO and co-founder, Nabla Flow, Jørgen Farner, AI Makerspace, Lene Diesen, CEO, Semine AS, Kristoffer Gjerde and Gustavo Mello, Professor, OsloMet to discuss how students and startups can benefit from internships and part time employment.