If you know a student or a young adult who’s recently graduated from university, you might be aware of the difficulties they face when entering the job market. Not enough demonstrated experience. Lack of specific technical skills. A bad match between current university teaching and the needs of the industry.
Riipen, a new technology startup out of the University of Victoria’s business program, aims to ease the transition from student to professional and to promote relationships between companies and bright, new talent coming out of our universities. “Companies use projects and contests on our platform to attract and filter potential hires for the future,” Dave Savory (@DaveSavory1), Riipen’s co-founder and business development director, told me.
Savory, along with Dylan Chernick and Dana Stephenson, are behind the Riipen initiative. Hundreds of students across Canada have already signed up, and companies and organizations such as Beanstream, the Vancouver Economic Commission, SunLife Financial and more have posted projects on the platform.
Riipen works more like a professional matchmaking site than a job board. Students fill out a profile with their school, location, skills and a short bio–a bit like a LinkedIn profile. Companies and organizations post basic information about themselves, along with projects to complete or contests to enter.
There are two typical types of projects on Riipen. The first is usually from smaller companies who need something specific done, like a logo or a user interface. The second, usually from larger companies, is less involved in operations and is usually in the form of a contest or a case study. Students pitch ideas or complete the project, and the company chooses who is awarded the incentive.
“Every project has to have a monetary incentive. Nobody works for free! As students, we didn’t want to build a service that left us unpaid. We made Riipen from a student point of view, and we considered students’ needs first.”
After the match is made between student and company, Riipen is out of the picture. “We provide contract templates to students so they can get paid for their work. But as soon as they are matched, they are in contact directly and we are out of the way. We’re like a matchmaking service or a dating site.”
And social media is a big part of their growth strategy. “We get most of our student traffic from Facebook and Twitter. LinkedIn is not a great place for students because it’s focused on professional networking, but we do use it to connect with companies and tell them about Riipen. Some students have profiles as well, which shows their digital fluency and their professional dedication. However, most of our student-side strategy relies on Facebook–especially Facebook groups. We get in touch with the people who run interest groups in university programs–HR groups, marketing groups, finance groups, etc.–and ask them to share Riipen opportunities with their members.”
After only one year, Riipen is already a well-known brand in business and technology circles. “We sponsor the HTML500 events across Canada, and we are getting more and more students from everywhere in Canada signing up to Riipen. Eventually, we’d like to develop in the United States as well, especially where there is a good match between university training and industry needs.”
In British Columbia, Riipen is quickly becoming an alternative way for companies to scout new talent, and for students to network with companies that interest them. “We’re even working with some professors who are integrating Riipen in their curriculum.” Because the projects require only a few hours of commitment, it’s a good way to get to know a company’s culture and to test whether it would be a good career fit.
Riipen is poised to disrupt the way companies recruit new employees. Will we see it become a must for every student, just like LinkedIn is a must for every serious professional?