The Office of Career Strategy recently released data indicating that 94.5 percent of students who responded to the OCS Summer 2015 Activities survey participated in a summer internship that lasted for at least one month. Many of those students used OCS’s Symplicity website to secure the internships, and many used resources including Craigslist and the Facebook page “Yale Summer Housing” to find places to live over the summer. But according to Yuanling Yuan ’16, these decentralized efforts to secure summer jobs and summer housing are “really inefficient.”
SubLite, a Yale startup co-founded by Yuan, Qingyang Chen ’17 and Alisa Melekhina, a University of Pennsylvania Wharton student, hopes to disrupt the current student summer experience model by providing an open marketplace for student summer housing and summer internship matching.
SubLite’s business model operates on simple and direct exchange — college students who are looking for summer housing for classes or internships can connect with other students who are looking to sublet their living spaces during the same time frame, Yuan said. When she spoke further about their existing competition in the startup space, Yuan mentioned that there are no other services that seek to combine exactly what SubLite does: student summer housing and internship matching. The site formalizes the process that, formerly, was scattered over places like Craigslist sublet ads and college Facebook Housing Wanted pages. According to Yuan, the service provides a user-friendly interface for this kind of exchange.
Yuan said SubLite is easy and safe to use, as each user is vetted by SubLite with its college-email-validated registration process. Yuan added that sites like Symplicity, which students typically turn to for the internship search, are difficult to navigate and typically do not contain a diversity of internship opportunities — especially for students looking to intern with smaller, local companies that do not have established ties to Yale. When the team expanded their services to allow internship recruiters to post listings on the site, which already had a large user base of students looking for housing, SubLite found a unique financial opportunity, she said.
SubLite has been in operation since April 2014, but, according to Chen — one of the early co-founders and the incoming CEO — it wasn’t until this past fall that they decided to charge recruiters to advertise positions on their website. Prior to this, SubLite was funded by a combination of grants, most notably from the Yale Entrepreneurial Institute and the co-founders’ personal investments. The company has not yet turned a profit, according to Yuan, but has started to bring in revenue from the recruiter end. Yuan assured users that not only is SubLite attempting to change the sublet-internship landscape — most obviously, by merging the two — but they are attempting to create the best user experience on both the student and recruiter sides. Chen added that the services offered for students are completely free.
“Our mission is to help the students,” Chen said, adding that the company accrues revenue through their recruiter services.
To that end, the site, unlike many other services that allow internship recruiters to post internship information, only charges recruiters for each student that applies to the recruiter’s internship SubLite makes customer satisfaction “a priority,” Yuan said.
To the SubLite team, customer satisfaction means creating the best web interface for their user, Chen said. He created the first prototype a year and a half ago, and has been constantly improving SubLite’s web presence based off of field tests, surveys, and focus group input. But he is not doing this work alone — Chen, with help from SubLite’s “enthusiastic marketing team,” was able to recruit a strong cohort of software developers and designers who work tirelessly to ensure the website’s front end and back end are “easy to use and effective.”
Eric Yu ’19, one of SubLite’s software developers, said he joined the SubLite team because he was “very impressed with their dedication” and has been very pleased with his experience on the team, mostly because of their “willingness to teach [new team members] and get [them] up to speed as quickly as possible.” He described SubLite as one of the best experiences he has had at Yale so far.
Alex Croxford ’18, SubLite’s business development director, said he often speculates at what entices people to join and stick with the company.
“I think we do a really good job of creating excitement — when you’re here, you’re not necessarily working for SubLite — you are SubLite,” Croxford said. “We all have the same potential to change the company.”
David Liu ’18 said he likes being part of the SubLite team because “there’s an actual product and service that [they] come out with.” He juxtaposed this experience with programming by himself in his room, and said that he greatly enjoys the collaborative and user-driven work of SubLite.
SubLite has been active for close to two years. Yuan and Chen attribute their tenacious and comparatively long-lived startup to the collaborative nature and culture of creation present among team members. The founding members have started to graduate and move onto careers in the “real world,” Yuan said. However, the team maintains that even through the changes and expansions, SubLite’s core message remains the same, Yuan said. As written in their websites mission statement, they know exactly what they are — the “one-stop shop for a successful summer.”
According to the SubLite website, over 10,000 students and 700 universities use their service.