Flinja wants to create a peer-to-peer jobs marketplace based on student and alumni networks within various universities around the country. It seeks to differentiate itself from other marketplace startups — the Taskrabbits and the Zaarlys of the world — by tying user participation to their college affiliation. Like Facebook once upon a time, all users are required to log in with their .edu email addresses to prove that they are either currently attending a participating university or had once done so.
The Flinja platform allows students to find and apply for available jobs that suit their interests or available skill set; conversely, it lets alumni post jobs and find qualified candidates based on their experience. Flinja has built the same type of reputation system one might expect — allowing employers to rate students who have worked for them and vice versa. It also handles all billing and payments, and as a result also takes care of all fraud detection and disputes between students and alumni. Job listers set their own prices, and Flinja takes a 10-15 percent cut of all transactions.
Sticking to universities works for a few reasons: for one thing, college students today are facing a horrible job market and massive amounts of student loan debt upon graduation. According to recent studies, more than half of all recent college grads are unemployed, and job prospects are bleak. Flinja is trying to bring some relief by creating a natural job market between students and alumni from their schools.
Also, the university angle provides a higher level of trust and verification than one might find through other marketplaces. An employer with some short-term or contract work is much more likely to trust an applicant whose identity is tied to the university network, rather than someone who has been found on Craigslist or some other online market.
Flinja launched earlier this year and is already available to students and alumni at USC and UCLA, the first two schools it launched with. In both cases, Flinja was able to get about 10 percent of available students to sign up on Day One, and has been adding more eligible workers ever since. Now Flinja is bringing its jobs marketplace to Stanford University, announcing the launch at the DEMO conference today.
So far, it’s been very deliberate in its choice of schools to launch with, and CEO Victor Young told me the startup will continue along that path. It’s looking for large, high-quality universities with big alumni networks. With USC, UCLA, and Stanford under its belt, the next two schools it’ll probably open up to are the University of Michigan and my alma mater, NYU.
Flinja was built by a pretty impressive team of co-founders. That includes Young, who was the founder and chief architect of online insurance CRM Enet; Rebecca Bahr, marketing and analytics manager at Google and eBay; Ken Miller, product and risk strategist at eBay and member of the PayPal mafia; and Calvin Shen, who was previously a senior engineer at Microsoft. The team participated in L.A. startup incubator StartEngine, which just wrapped its demo day a few weeks ago. So far, it’s been bootstrapped, but Young said Flinja is planning on raising an angel round after DEMO.