Matching the best and brightest students with New Zealand start-ups is the aim of a new internship programme being launched this summer by business incubator The Icehouse, angel investment group ICE Angels, and education consultancy Crimson Consulting.
The Technology Leaders of Tomorrow programme will see between 15 and 30 students from the Crimson network conduct summer internships at The Icehouse and portfolio companies it and Ice Angels have invested in.
Student internships are common in the United States and the United Kingdom where they are seen by students as a way to impress potential employers in their chosen field or flesh out their CVs while employers get fresh thinking and sometimes an easy way to assess potential employees.
Crimson Consulting was founded three years ago by two young Kiwis - 20-year-old Harvard University student Jamie Beaton and 21-year-old Sharndre Kushor. They have raised more than $7 million from international hedge fund managers this year, including Julian Robertson from Tiger Management which Beaton also works for, and last year ICE Angels invested $1.4 million.
Crimson has been on the acquisition path and recently bought Dunedin-based UniTutor, though the funds raised will mainly be used to push into China and build its software engineering capability that drives the online learning platform.
The company offers programmes and mentoring to help high school and university students excel academically and in extracurricular activities and achieve their chosen career path, including gaining admission to universities such as Harvard or to work for companies like Google.
Beaton has already been assisting students to get internships on an ad hoc basis and the tie-up with the Icehouse and ICE Angels will provide a more structured programme. Interns are not required to be paid though companies can choose to do so.
Beaton did his own internship at the Icehouse which established his love of entrepreneurs and start-ups before he headed off to Harvard.
Icehouse chief executive Andy Hamilton said he was excited about providing students with non-linear experiences and to help the companies they've invested in take on key markets offshore.
"We have to win the talent war by getting the best types of people in these companies as they try to go offshore," he said. "Success for me will be by the end of the first year having placed 15 students in companies."
The intern programme follows the setting up this year of the Junior Venture Partners, a group of university students who conduct due diligence on ICE Angels investees and this year raised a $60,000 fund to invest in its showcase companies.
Beaton said within New Zealand entrepreneurship is the most important thing to get the economy pumping whereas left to their own devices, the brightest Kiwi students tended to see medicine, engineering, and law as their best career prospects.
"If all these New Zealanders are introduced to a more entrepreneurial environment they could be the guy or girl heading the next big venture capital-backed company in Silicon Valley or a Zuckerberg competitor with the next social media start-up," he said.
The start-ups are getting hard working students with the ability to learn quickly who can give valuable insights and add to the company's diversity of thinking, Beaton said, particularly in the areas of new technology and social media.
Hedge fund investor New Zealand Assets Management has been taking summer interns for the past four years mainly to do quantitative research work. A 16-year-old, year 12, high school student referred by Beaton last year turned out to be "outstanding", said NZAM chief executive Andy Morris.
A more recent referral was turned down by the company because the student didn't have the necessary skills set and wasn't available when needed, and Morris said it was important to get the right fit.
There's heated debate in the US over whether students should get paid and Morris said he pays the students $20 an hour because they're adding value to his company.
"It's good for us to have young people in here because they have energy and passion and ideas that are new. They look at the business quite differently," he said.