An internship can be an important step for any young college student. But more often than not, those interns are left doing “busy work” while clocking in 40 hours a week over the summer.
The team behind Runway thought there had to be a better way for students to get business experience (and make money on their own schedule). So they launched a new type of platform to play “matchmaker” between businesses and college students.
The startup, launched by a group of Georgia Tech students, works as an on-demand matching platform for companies to hire vetted college students year-round for specific projects. Unlike postings for traditional summer internships, businesses can post on a project-by-project basis so that students can work with a company more as an “ad hoc contract worker,” says co-founder Ford Coleman.
Companies might post looking for students to help with business development, lead generation, data analytics tasks, or design projects for a few hours a week throughout the school year.
The concept has caught the attention of users on both sides of the company-student marketplace. Runway has over 1,000 students on the platform from Georgia Tech, Emory and Georgia State already, with plans to expand geographically soon.
Since last October, the platform has helped 40 businesses get the talent they need. Coleman added that the startup has already brought in $80,000 in revenue and is set to hit the $100,000 by the end of its first full year of operations.
Entrepreneurial Growing Pains
Those are impressive numbers given that this time last year the startup was not much more than a “scrappy MVP,” Coleman told Hypepotamus.
The startup, previously called GigSurf, was initially a platform for students to pay other students for “gigs”. The team spent a year building out its mobile app that launched in summer of 2022 as the team was going through Georgia Tech’s Create-X program. But Coleman, alongside co-founders Cam Holmes and Syaam Khandaker, soon realized that the market opportunity wasn’t there. Simply put, students don’t have much spending power.
“The problem was that we were doing it completely wrong. We were too focused on the product as opposed to the business and we didn’t understand our customers. Then we made the decision to scrap the app and start over about halfway through summer,” Coleman added.
In true entrepreneurial fashion, Coleman and the team went back to basics. Coleman said that the team started posting flyers all over Georgia Tech’s campus to see what students would be interested in hiring other students to do.
Ridesharing was a popular choice (since Ubers are expensive these days).
“So for about 4 straight weekends I would essentially be an Uber driver and shuttle students to and from the bars on the weekends testing out the idea. I would also do other gigs for students like tutoring and cleaning,” he added. “After doing the gigs myself and matching other students to these gigs we had revenue but it was like $500.”
That wasn’t enough to sustain a full business. But the startup did have something valuable: A long list of students looking for part-time ways to make money.
Coleman said that he started talking to companies inside of ATDC, the business incubator located on Georgia Tech’s Tech Square, to see if they might be interested in hiring university students on a part-time or freelance basis.
The overwhelming answer was yes.
That pivot paid off pretty quickly. Last October the team brought in its first two clients and $5,000 in revenue (10x from what they were bringing in with their original GigSurf model). And that’s when the three co-founders focused fully on getting Runway off the ground.
As the team closes in on the $100,000 annual revenue mark, Coleman said he is starting to think of other ways to expand the platform. Managing an enterprise company’s part-time internship program is one route. The team, which has bootstrapped the startup to date, is also focused on bringing on more colleges from across the country onto the platform.
Want to keep up with Runway’s growth? Here are some key links:
Featured photo provided by Runway team