“As a student, I didn’t have the opportunity to do any kind of study-related work on the side,” says Micky Chen, co-founder of Minite.
While working at restaurants, Chen says she wished for an opportunity to practically apply her university learnings and better prepare for her future career.
It is not uncommon to find students working side jobs at fast food restaurant chains or other workplaces which may not directly relate to their university career.
According to Eurostat, 23 per cent of young people aged between 15 and 29 years in formal education were also employed in 2021.
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In 2021, nearly 70 per cent of students and apprentices in the Netherlands aged between 15 and 29 years were employed while still in education.
This frustrating lack of relevant side jobs led Chen and her sister Linky Chen to start Minite (pronounced Minute), a digital platform that connects vetted student freelancers with companies offering side jobs in marketing, sales, and IT.
A minute of your time
The story of Minite, our startup of the month, is essentially the story of Chen sisters and its origin is intertwined with their personal experience.
After graduation, Chen says she got rejected by a major Dutch bank for not being “identifiable” with their average customer.
She says, “That’s when I decided that we should all be judged on relevant data, rather than ethnicity, gender, or age.”
She further adds that they chose this name to highlight the importance of a minute of your time.
“The original meaning behind it was,” she explains, “that our students can offload companies from a lot of work so that they can save time and focus on their core business.”
Even though its HQ is in Rotterdam, the sisters are based in Almere, which forms part of the Amsterdam metropolitan area and the startup will soon open an office in Amsterdam on December 1 in addition to a shared office space at the Raamgracht.
It should not come as a surprise that Minite is a hybrid organisation where Chen says office days are used to do “a lot of collaborative stuff and meetings.”
She explains that they are able to solve and discuss little things while sitting next to each other while remote days are used for “focus time” to build key features or work on things that can be done in silence.
Since its start in 2020, Minite has raised €300,000 in seed funding, facilitated thousands of matches, and has also expanded its leadership team with Kristóf Vass, who co-founded an AI startup, joining as CTO in September.
Chen sees three as the magic number for a leadership team and is useful in decision-making. “We’re a very well-oiled machine and I love how quickly we can put ideas to work,” she adds.
With Minite, Chen says they are focused on solving two major pain points for students.
The first is the lack of study-related opportunities and the second is finding those opportunities without any bias.
“I believe it’s very beneficial and important to offer study-related work to students so that they can get a glimpse of the ‘real working world’ early on,” says Chen.
While all other recruiting platforms do get a lot of things right, they don’t necessarily serve students with opportunities that help them build a strong CV, make informed career decisions, and grow both personally and professionally.
One of the ways that Minite facilitates this is by connecting companies with the best students based on data, and not “gut feeling or likeability.”
On Minite, a company looking to hire a student freelancer won’t see their photo, name, age, gender or ethnicity.
The platform is instead designed to showcase the profile of these students highlighting their skills in the form of studies, experience, and interests.
This profile is further supplemented with data including assessment scores and Chen says they even use AI to analyse behaviour, which can be a great predictor for future success.
Chen says they are able to vet the students on its platform by leveraging natural language processing (NLP) to gain invaluable insights into student profiles.
This allows Minite to provide businesses hiring on the platform with a nuanced understanding of each student’s unique qualities, which extends far beyond what businesses can learn by scanning a resume.
“This goes very deep as we also comprehensively understand their platform behaviour and therefore can provide users with a holistic view of suitability for specific roles and projects,” explains Chen.
With Vass coming on board as CTO, Chen sees an opportunity to further build on this capability.
There is no denying that Minite is unique and serves a community that hasn’t been catered to directly in the past.
Chen, who is a FEM-START expert, says they are focused on serving only students because “students have got much more potential, drive and hunger to learn.”
She sees students, who are called High-Flyers on Minite, bringing fresh perspectives to organisations and often going above and beyond to deliver excellence.
“I love the unencumbered minds of students, as do the companies that work with us,” she adds.
On its website, Minite claims to have over 15,000 students registered on its platform and Chen confirms to have facilitated thousands of matches between students and companies to date.
“We offer a range of opportunities meaning it’s not only freelance jobs, but students can also come to us to find internships, full-time jobs, join company in-house days or be a part of events,” she elaborates.
At this moment, there are over a thousand companies using Minite to hire student freelancers but Chen is particularly proud of the fact that companies who hired through the platform two years ago are still hiring.
As a platform serving students across the Netherlands, Minite offers opportunities that pay €18 an hour or €120 for one-time projects.
Chen sees this as a fair rate both for students and companies and believes paying a student €5 an hour would be unfair if their added value is €35 per hour.
Slush, funding, and road ahead
Chen repeatedly says their focus is on offering quality and being very strict about that metric.
She says offering constant quality ensures a great experience for their clients and has become the singular reason for them to keep coming back to the platform.
In an era where funding has become hard to come by and investors increasingly prioritise profitability over growth, Chen says she does not believe in fast gains since they can turn into quick losses.
With €300,000 in seed funding in January 2022, she says they have been able to grow significantly and emphasises her belief in sustainable growth when asked if they will raise any additional funding.
Minite is heading to Slush this year as part of the official Dutch trade mission that aims to showcase innovative and impact-driven Dutch startups on a global platform.
Chen, who has never been to Slush, a founder-centric event, says Minite was invited by the RVO to join the trade mission and sees Slush as an opportunity to “return with lots of new connections and inspiration.”
For Chen and Minite, the future is one where the platform not only gets better but also smarter with the continued use and implementation of AI.
“We’re hyped about the wealth of opportunities that generative AI brings,” Chen says, adding, “and always find ways to incorporate that into our platform to make the user experience better, smarter, and more seamless.”
Having already started working with larger companies for a variety of opportunities, Minite aims to further connect students with opportunities such as in-house days, internships, full-time jobs, and unique events.
In the end, Chen says they will remain the geeks “who love to build stuff” that people need and are rooted in its mission to connect the best student talent with the right companies in a Gen Z fashion.
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