Martin B. Justesen has witnessed hundreds of startup internships as the founder of university incubators, such as SUND Hub. Photo: Mikal Schlosser

Why a young talent will join your startup

GUEST ENTRY: How do you find the right student to be your next intern? We asked an expert who has witnessed hundreds of startup internships.

Hi, my name is Martin B. Justesen. I’m the Manager and founder of SUND Hub.

During my time in the startup community, I’ve seen hundreds of students join startups for internship. I have seen a lot of hard work, damn good execution and solid learning going on. Also, I have seen a lot of people wasting each other’s time. When it comes to student internships in startups, some of them work, some of them don’t. Here are my insights.

Imagine this.

You’re about to campaign for young talents to join your startup. We all know the feel good arguments you can choose to use. We are looking for a new kickass ninja this-and-that. It will be fun and we want to make the world a better place. In other words the “come play tabletop football, drink beer and eat pizza with us”-thing. However, your next student intern might not be one of the usual suspects.

Universities in Denmark and Danish Foundation for Entrepreneurship recently launched StartUp in Practice. With this program we join forces, making startup internships an integrated part of university’s curricular learning programmes (providing ECTS-points for the student).

With this program I feel confident that universities in future will able to develop a lot of young talents for startups and corporate world as well. Young people who will be able to read your customer needs as they read the books about human behaviour. However we need to understand what motivates the next generation of young talents when they look for where to work with ideas.

SUND Hub is an Health incubator at University of Copenhagen. Here students work with own ideas on how to solve health related issues. Also, we matchmake students without ideas with health related startups. In this process we ask: “Why do you want to join a Health startup?”.

From the answers, we see that there is a lot of love for the 3-element-dream: Tabletop football, beer and pizza. And there is a good understanding of the startup as a nice workspace. A place with good energy, where you will feel good and make new friends.

However, what seems to be the essential motivation for the students is the opportunity to use academic training in a real life project in a smaller, more personal context.

Here’s what the students hope to do, interning in startups*):

  • “As my field of study I am interested in solving issues.”
  • “…to use my academic training in a real life project.”
  • “…to put into practice and bring on board what I have studied so far.”
  • “…to bring on board my professional skills.”
  • “…to put the skills I’ve learned studying to good use.”

(*anonymized quotes the from the survey)

My advice would be talking to some of the relevant students. Find out what they hope to learn from being a part of your startup. Combine the findings with all the things that you and team would have loved to know more about when you started. And you will have a good start finding your new student intern.

Happy recruiting!


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