A startup fair on Thursday brought alumni and business leaders from the field of entrepreneurship to tell students about the benefits of joining, or founding, a startup.
The Startup Networking Fair, in its second year, is an effort by the Office of Career Strategy to connect students with employers and alumni at startups from around the globe. Representatives from roughly 10 startup companies attended the fair and spoke to students about full-time and internship positions, while more than 40 alumni shared their own entrepreneurial experiences with attendees.
“It’s a great way for students to connect with startups,” OCS Director Jeanine Dames said. “Some students want to actually work at a startup and be part of something that’s developing, and some students want to work at a startup to learn before they start their own business.”
While startups are excited to connect with students, Dames added, a lot of the companies are unsure of their hiring needs until later in the year.
Many of the startup founders interviewed who were also Yale alumni said they became entrepreneurs during their time as undergraduates at Yale.
Tyler Reynolds ’14, co-founder of Trinity Mobile Networks, a startup that creates software that allows phones to create direct connections between one another and extend the reach of Wi-Fi, said he and his colleagues got the idea for their startup as freshmen. They were at the Harvard-Yale game, he said, and could only get Wi-Fi by standing near the hotspot — so they thought of using other people’s phones to relay the system.
Jonathan Bittner ’07, CEO and co-founder of Splitwise, an application that allows people to split restaurant bills and other expenses with ease, said that although startups are currently “in vogue,” students are often lured into the stability of consulting or banking jobs.
It is difficult for startups to hire students, he added, because these larger companies have popular recruiting events early in the year.
“There’s no way we can really compete with that because students want certainty,” he said.
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Another problem facing startups is that interested students must show more initiative to contact employers given the nature of its business model.
The biggest difference between working for an established firm and a startup is that there is no set protocol in entering a startup, Bittner said. Students also tend to not have enough initiative to reach out to startups to get a job, he added.
Four representatives and students interviewed said the event was inconveniently timed, and could have been better publicized — which could explain the relatively low attendance. Fewer than 40 students attended the fair, which took place in the middle of the day. At any given moment, alumni generally outnumbered students.
Additionally, eight out of the 10 students interviewed before the fair said they were unaware that the event was taking place later that afternoon.
But Isaac Morrier ’17 said he noticed the event on the Yale College Council Campus Calendar among other places, and said that many people he talked to beforehand had heard about the event. Morrier added that when the 40 alumni speakers arrived at 3 p.m., many more students were present at the fair and additional startups had set up their booths.
“It was a very warm atmosphere and everyone was talking,” Morrier said. “By the time I left, it was pretty loud, and a very animated networking coach had come in and started introducing random people to each other.”
Nancy Xia ’15 said she only heard about the fair through newsletters and emails she received from OCS. She added that the fair was a good resource for seniors currently on the job hunt.
“I’m interested in startups, I’m looking for a job and I’ve never been to a startup career fair before — so I thought I’d check it out,” Xia said. “If you don’t see what opportunities are out there, then you close yourself off to them.”
According to the OCS class of 2014 list, 4 percent of students who graduated last spring are now self-employed or working at a startup.