By Anna Lardinois, Startup Storyteller
Emerging startup Internship on Demand (IOD) is creating solutions for one of the most pressing challenges in business today: talent acquisition.
The company connects college students with internships in a format that appeals to the digital natives. But that’s not all. IOD also provides employability learning modules for interns while providing opportunities for companies to keep talented students in their human capital pipeline.
The startup that is challenging large employers to rethink talent acquisition was created in response to the pandemic.
Co-founders Keegan Moldenhauer and Ryan McKernan met while classmates at University of Wisconsin. “At the beginning of the pandemic, I saw a lot of students that I had mentored and worked with while leading a student organization at UW Madison lose their internships and wanted to do something to help,” Moldenhauer explained.
The two students began working on a solution. When the pair met Kit Chow at the co-working space StartingBlock Madison in January 2022, Chow quickly moved from collaborator to co-founder of the company.
“It was really just serendipitous to run into Kit,” Moldenhauer said. “We had a two-hour lunch that turned into ‘what does Internship on Demand look like in five years?’ In 10 years? What are the big juicy problems that we want to solve and how can we do that? Kit started as a part time employee, became a full-time employee, and then became a cofounder all in about the span of about a month.”
“I wasn’t necessarily looking for a co-founder,” said the CEO. “I was looking for connections to other founders who knew the problems of starting a business and figuring all of that out. And Kit happened to be all that and more. And it has really leveled up what Ryan and I were building with the team.” Chow now serves as the company’s COO.
Students are enthusiastic about IOD and its easy-to-use web-based technology, their clients, the companies hiring interns, needed a bit more convincing to embrace this new way of connecting students to internships. “It’s taken some education and we need to tell the story that what we’re doing is valuable for students, but also valuable for our company partners,” Moldenhauer said.
Moldenhauer makes a compelling argument that companies using IOD will see a significant return on their investment. He states, “Hires that go from a company’s internal internship program are 15 to 20% more likely to be at that company after one year and after five years.”
To win new customers, IOD is focusing on the key customer needs of “growing the talent pipeline, finding diverse candidates, and making internship programs more impactful.”
Beyond connecting students with internships, IOD also provides a pre-internship curriculum to prepare students for the opportunity. The module-based curriculum focuses on professional development skills in the areas of cultural management, technical skills, and key workplace skills. The program allows customers to add their own education modules that focus on unique aspects of the customers’ workplace culture.
Moldenhauer states the pre-internship portion of the product provides an opportunity for their customers to connect with candidates who are interested in exploring career options with a company, even if there are no openings at the organization. This allows IOD’s customers to access a ready database of potential employees whose skills and workplace preferences are already known to them.
Internship on Demand has no intention of limiting itself to dealing solely with internships. Moldenhauer sees endless opportunities to provide a host of hiring solutions across a spectrum of industries.
“We want to be the first place college students go to find professional experience making the employer experience equitable, accessible, and easy to find. When college students say, ‘I’m trying to learn about a major,’ or ‘I’m deciding on a specific company or specific career focus,’ we want to be there to say, ‘test drive this company,’ or ‘test drive this career’ and figure out if it’s right for you. At the end of the day, that allows companies within our network to access talent in a much more meaningful way,” Moldenhauer said.
“They can understand a candidate on a deeper holistic view, by looking at what kind of culture this candidate is looking for and what kind of workplace is this candidate looking for. It also allows candidates to showcase real work that they do with a company partner,” he said.
“We’re really looking to not only change how we think about the talent recruitment space but also we’re looking at the alternative education space and how people are able to access that merit-based hiring, through our programming and our pre-internship curriculum,” Chow said. “We can really provide more access and equity across the board to people who are looking to get these opportunities and jobs but may not necessarily have the means to go to college.”
The three founders all have engineering backgrounds. Capitalizing on this area of expertise, the team chose to roll out the product to the manufacturing and engineering industries. IOD plans to expand into the information technology and biosciences industries in 2023.
The growth-focused company plans to open a pre-seed funding round in September. To learn more about this rising company, connect with them here.