Bridging academia and job market realities with Extern’s Matt Wilkerson | E1945

Bridging academia and job market realities with Extern’s Matt Wilkerson | E1945

Extern’s Matt Wilkerson joins Jason (00:00:00)

  • Matt Wilkerson joins Jason to discuss the importance of work experience for young people and the challenges of traditional internships.
  • Internships are a burden for employers as they require training and may result in the intern leaving for a competitor.
  • Those without connections may struggle to secure internships, leading to missed opportunities.
  • Externships offer a better alternative to traditional internships.
  • Externships provide students with real-world work experience without the commitment of a full-time internship.
  • Externships can help students explore different career paths and gain valuable skills.
  • Matt Wilkerson's company, Paragon 1, successfully pivoted and found product-market fit after participating in an accelerator program during COVID-19.

The concept of externships and he problem of student loans and work experience (00:04:22)

  • Students spend a lot of money on four-year degrees but many entry-level jobs require three or more years of work experience.
  • Internships are difficult to scale, favor students with social status or social capital, and are time-consuming for employers to run.
  • Externships are a new form of work experience that are short, online, and project-based.
  • Externships can be launched for free by companies, but large corporates can pay for a premium enterprise experience.

Equinix - Join the Equinix Startup Program for up to $100K in credits and much more (00:07:04)

  • Equinix Metal provides direct access to physical servers with the benefits of the cloud.
  • The Equinix Startup Program offers personalized consultations, guidance, and up to $100,000 in startup credits.

The Extern student experience (00:08:09)

  • Extern is a platform that connects students with companies for internships and professional experiences.
  • It offers a free version for both students and companies, with plans to introduce a premium tier with additional features and support.
  • The goal is to make professional experiences accessible to everyone, especially underserved populations and low-income background students.
  • Extern is considering a range of $100 to $200 for premium services, which is comparable to a few hours of work at minimum wage jobs.
  • The platform emphasizes the importance of "skin in the game" to ensure the quality of externships and the seriousness of students.
  • Extern plans to introduce a tiered verification system for students, with different levels of onboarding and mentoring based on payment amounts.
  • Students can explore current externships in various categories such as marketing, business development, product management, data analytics, finance, and consulting on

The demand for cybersecurity professionals and the benefits of externships (00:14:18)

  • Extern is a platform that offers remote, flexible externships to bridge the gap between academia and the job market.
  • Unlike traditional internships, Extern's externships are accessible from home, run year-round, and are asynchronous, allowing students to complete work on their own time.
  • Extern partners with industry experts to develop relevant and practical training programs that align with real-world job requirements.
  • The platform uses a selective application process, accepting only 10% of applicants, and focuses on indicators of curiosity and determination rather than traditional academic qualifications.
  • Extern's externships provide students with hands-on experience in specific fields, such as venture capital, through interactive Zoom sessions and project-based work.

The gap between academic curriculum and job market reality (00:19:11)

  • There is a five-year gap between what is taught in elite universities and the actual job market demands.
  • The slow curriculum adaptation process in universities is due to the academic Senate process and various committees.
  • Integrating externships into the curriculum faces challenges due to university bureaucracy.
  • Guidance counselors in universities are often disconnected from job market realities.
  • Extern offers a marketplace platform that directly connects students with companies for externships, bypassing universities.
  • Companies consistently need certain categories of work, such as customer discovery skills, which are applicable in various roles.
  • Machine learning (ML) and large language models (LLMs) can support students in learning and completing tasks.
  • The goal is to increase the acceptance rate of externships from 10% to 100% by providing better support and resources to students.
  • The speaker had Bob from the Rework Group on their podcast to discuss the Jobs to be Done framework.

CLA - Get started with CLA's CPAs, consultants, and wealth advisors now (00:23:58)

  • CLA offers CPA, consulting, and wealth advisory services.
  • Stephen Estus is a principal at CLA specializing in VCB startups, VC funds, and high-growth startups with complex tax issues.
  • Matt Wilkerson is the CEO and co-founder of Extern, a platform that connects students with real-world work experiences.
  • Extern partners with companies to provide students with hands-on learning opportunities and helps students develop skills that are in demand in the job market.
  • Matt has a background in education and technology.
  • He previously worked as a teacher and as a product manager at Google.
  • Matt's experiences led him to realize the need for a better way to connect students with real-world work experiences.
  • Extern partners with companies to create project-based learning experiences for students.
  • Students work on real-world projects and receive mentorship from professionals in the field.
  • Extern also provides students with career development resources and networking opportunities.
  • Extern provides students with hands-on learning experiences that help them develop skills that are in demand in the job market.
  • Students gain real-world experience and build their resumes.
  • Extern also helps students network with professionals and explore different career paths.
  • Extern provides companies with access to a pool of talented students who are eager to learn and contribute.
  • Companies can use Extern to identify and recruit potential employees.
  • Extern also helps companies stay up-to-date on the latest trends and technologies.
  • One challenge is ensuring that students have the skills and knowledge necessary to succeed in their projects.
  • Another challenge is finding companies that are willing to invest in project-based learning experiences.
  • Matt and his team are constantly working to overcome these challenges and improve the Extern platform.
  • Matt advises students to get involved in extracurricular activities and to seek out opportunities to gain real-world experience.
  • He also encourages students to be proactive in their job search and to network with professionals in their field of interest.

The value of externships in helping students figure out their career paths (00:25:30)

  • Extern is an online platform that provides experiential learning opportunities through externships, bridging the gap between academia and real-world work experience.
  • It offers various modules and courses to enhance students' skills and knowledge in specific fields, operating on a rolling basis with new opportunities starting every month.
  • Extern prioritizes accessibility and inclusivity by providing scholarships and financial assistance to ensure equal participation regardless of financial background.
  • The platform focuses on identifying and nurturing motivated and skilled individuals, valuing practical abilities over traditional educational qualifications.
  • Completing multiple externships helps students build strong resumes and gain clarity about their career interests and goals.
  • Extern's verified work experience and structured training enhance candidates' credibility with potential employers.
  • The platform generates revenue by charging fees for modules and courses, recognizing the value of well-prepared candidates to top employers.
  • Initially facing challenges in selling services to large companies due to budget constraints and HR resistance, Extern plans to create a marketplace where students can showcase their skills and achievements through personalized profile pages on, shareable on platforms like LinkedIn.

HubSpot - Be sure to check out the Million Dollar pitch competition from Hubspot for Startups & HubSpot Ventures. Apply now (00:33:02)

  • HubSpot for Startups and HubSpot Ventures are hosting the Million Dollar Pitch competition.
  • Applications are open for a limited time.
  • Six founders will be flown to HubSpot's Flagship Inbound conference in Boston in September.
  • Founders will pitch their startups on stage in front of thousands of people and a panel of VCs and executives.
  • Founders will receive invaluable feedback to help their businesses grow.
  • Founders will be considered for an investment of up to $1 million.
  • Submissions are open until midnight Eastern Time on May 17, 2023.
  • Matt Wilkerson, CEO of Extern, discusses the challenges of bridging the gap between academia and the job market.
  • Extern is a platform that connects students with real-world work experiences.
  • Wilkerson believes that experiential learning is essential for students to develop the skills they need to succeed in the job market.
  • Extern offers a variety of programs, including internships, apprenticeships, and project-based learning, to help students gain real-world experience.
  • Wilkerson emphasizes the importance of soft skills, such as communication and teamwork, in addition to technical skills.
  • Extern works with employers to ensure that students are getting the skills they need to be successful in the workplace.
  • Wilkerson believes that experiential learning is the key to preparing students for the future of work.

The impact of Extern on students and the job market (00:34:17)

  • Extern is a platform that offers externship programs, bridging the gap between academia and the job market by providing students with real-world work experience and in-demand skills.
  • The platform focuses on developing skills that are not likely to be replaced by generative AI, such as synthesizing information and effective communication.
  • Extern addresses students' fears and pressures during job applications and internships, offering a safe environment to gain work experience.
  • The traditional education system inadequately prepares students for the job market, leading to anxiety and confusion among students and parents.
  • Remote jobs increase competition for students globally, necessitating the development of constantly evolving, in-demand skills.
  • Externships provide real-world experience, boosting students' confidence and attractiveness to employers.
  • Students who complete externships often become program ambassadors, sharing positive experiences and attracting others.
  • Matt Wilkerson highlights the significance of peers in academic and professional settings, emphasizing the importance of acquiring unique skills for leadership and early adoption.
  • Creating different landing pages or short videos can target specific audiences, such as parents discussing fears with students and individuals showcasing skills and job offers, aligning with the "jobs to be done" customer discovery framework.

Understanding customers and the evolution of Extern (00:46:04)

  • Matt Wilkerson, founder of Extern, stresses the importance of understanding customers' needs when building a product.
  • After realizing that coaching alone was insufficient, Extern pivoted from career coaching to providing internships to solve students' problems more effectively.
  • Extern aims to increase student enrollment from 10% to 100% by year-end, granting access to externships and career guidance.
  • The company is selective in accepting companies for its free version but plans to expand its supply side later in the year.
  • Currently focused on maintaining a lean team and generating revenue from its enterprise portion, Extern is not actively hiring.
  • Matt Wilkerson emphasizes the significance of measuring net promoter score (NPS) to gauge customer perception and the need to adapt accordingly.
  • Wilkerson has observed changes in operating a company, growth techniques, and the business landscape since starting Extern.
  • Founders should prioritize solving significant problems that cause substantial distress when unsolved.
  • Continuous iteration and pivoting are essential for achieving success.
  • Amidst the ease of launching startups, founders must ensure they are working on transformative problems that truly matter.
  • A mission-driven team is crucial for long-term success.

The mission of Extern and advice for new founders (00:52:11)

  • Matt Wilkerson, CEO of Extern, emphasizes the importance of understanding the founder's vision and choosing the right problem to solve when investing in early-stage startups.
  • Extern, a platform founded by Wilkerson, aims to bridge the gap between academia and the job market, particularly addressing the challenges graduates face with student loans.
  • Wilkerson highlights successful companies like Uber and Robinhood as examples of identifying and solving specific problems.
  • The Founder Institute provides various programs for entrepreneurs, including pre-acceleration, acceleration, and direct investments.
  • The Liquidity Summit, an exclusive event for GPs, LPs, and high net worth individuals, will take place in Napa from January 2nd to 5th, with limited tickets available.

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