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Students acting as consultants for start-ups: ‘a win-win situation’

Apr 16, 2020 1:39:36 PM. By: High Tech Campus

A student consultant who thinks along with you about all kinds of problems and strategic choices a start-up has to deal with. At High Tech Campus Eindhoven, this has become a proven recipe. Students of Fontys University of Applied Sciences can do their internship as a consultant for one of the start-ups in the High Tech Plaza. It’s called a ‘win-win-situation’: The start-ups get extra man-hours and a breath of fresh air in their company and the students get a look behind the scenes at different companies at the same time, during their internship.

“In Brabant, drinking a cup of coffee together is very important. This is once again evident”, says Menke Steenbergen, CEO of IPOS. Her start-up focuses on sensor technology for equestrian sports. A few years ago, she established herself at the High Tech Campus, the hotspot of technology. “People in Brabant often invite each other to have a cup of coffee together. This results in the most beautiful conversations, but also practical help in setting up and running a business. What’s more, this is one big network in which everyone is willing to put you in touch with everyone”, she continues. “That’s how it works with these students as well. They literally walk into companies in the High Tech Plaza to ask if they can do something for the company.”

Concrete commands
Several students do an assignment for IPOS. For example, one of the students investigates the bottlenecks within the supply chain, such as where the stock can best be stored and who is responsible for packages during transport. At other companies, for example, students do market research or think along with them about a marketing strategy. “We try to give students a very concrete and defined assignment. They only have limited time”, Steenbergen explains. “As a company, I prefer to give a small assignment that has been carried out well, rather than a large assignment that has only succeeded in part. Otherwise, it’s of little use to us.”

The CEO says she likes working with students. “They provide a fresh perspective and take with them new knowledge they’ve learned at school.” Although working with students also takes some time for the company. “It takes a while for a student to get to know the company well. That’s important in order to carry out an assignment well, so we can really benefit from it. But that would also apply to a professional consultant.”

Build a large network
For the students, it is fun to look inside different companies. Steenbergen: “Education provides an overview of the knowledge, while in a company you only really learn about the details.” That’s why student Shokhan Masifi chose to do an internship as a consultant at High Tech Plaza. “It appealed to me to work with different companies. Sometimes these are larger companies that are already working internationally and sometimes they are just beginning start-ups. That’s what makes it so much fun”, says Masifi. “All the contacts we make with different companies can be very useful now and in the future.”

The community
In addition to the assignments students do for specific companies, they also organize networking get-togethers and other events for the entire High Tech Plaza. “In this way, we also try to contribute to the entire community”, says the student. That is also what her graduation research is about; building a stronger community within High Tech Plaza. “Companies already network well with each other. I’m going to see how the community can expand further and make it even stronger”, says the Masifi. For example, she looks at the expectations that start-ups have of the community and tries to respond to those expectations. She also looks at the communication with the outside world in order to be able to expand the network even further.

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“The community of High Tech Plaza is growing rapidly. In three years’ time, we have gone from one building with ten start-ups to three buildings with a total of forty start-ups”, says High Tech Plaza Community Manager Karina Garcia del Real. “It is becoming increasingly difficult to get people to network with each other. That’s why we organize various events such as networking get-togethers and workshops.” According to her, the students also have an influence on the community. “Students network with the companies and through the various assignments, companies also come into contact with each other again.

Job opportunities
Garcia del Real continues: “The students have refreshing ideas. They look at a company from the outside, then other things stand out than the ones we normally observe.” In her opinion, it is also nice for companies for very practical reasons. “They often don’t have the money to hire a consultant. Students also have a lot of knowledge and like to share it”.

That is also why Menke Steenbergen is so enthusiastic. Steenbergen: “Start-ups often have many new vacancies. As a student, there is a very good chance that you will be able to stay with such a company. What’s more, you will also have a quick overview of career opportunities. For entrepreneurs, it is nice to hire people they already know. So Fontys Consultancy is a good way for us to scout talents.” In this way, Fontys Consultancy forms a bridge between education and entrepreneurship. Education increasingly focuses on the practical side, Fontys Consultancy is a step in that direction.

According to Community Manager Karina Garcia del Real, there is room for many more students in the future. “We now have five students and that is actually too few for the number of start-ups in the High Tech Plaza”, she says. Moreover, there are opportunities to roll out this project throughout the whole High Tech Campus. “The students bring a lot of energy. That’s nice to see.”

This article was written and published by Innovation Origins.

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