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A new student market


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January 11, 2010
The Beaver
Nicolas Oudin


An increasing number of LSE students opt for an entrepreneurial career path. Ms. Andrea Kreideweiss, LSE Career Adviser in Entrepreneurship & Employability, affirms that "the attendance rates for our Entrepreneurship Masterclass Series have doubled in the last two years." In fact, under the Ventures@LSE program, the Career Service has launched several new opportunities to help students create, join, and learn about entrepreneurial projects. What motivates LSE students to pursue these enterprises and take on more risk and responsibility at a younger age?

Kanishk Walia, a second year BSc Economics student, is the founder of LSE StudentMarket™, an online marketplace for students at the LSE. "Students can buy and sell used books, student laptops, student accommodation, tutoring services and anything else that they want", says Walia. "And since this service has been created for students, by students, it is absolutely free." His pitch for this virtual pin-board is immaculate, his business plan well-conceived and marketing campaign successful.

He goes on to explain that his idea originated in first year mentees' complaints that textbooks were overpriced. Since all older students have these books lying on their shelf, "I figured creating an online system for connecting LSE students who wanted to sell to those who wanted to buy would be really useful." LSE StudentMarket™ effectively reduces transaction costs by providing a platform for arbitrage among LSE students for used textbooks, laptops, printers, hard drives, speakers, mp3 players, tutoring services, accommodation opportunities, etc. It's about time an LSE student endeavoured to set-up a market solution to high London prices.

What's more, it is free and easy to use, charitable and environmentally-friendly. Twenty per cent of revenue earned from online advertising are donated through the GiveIndia foundation and, Walia insists, "by using this service, you are preventing wasteful use, encouraging recycling of goods between students and reducing your carbon footprint." Why must I become a consultant to do business? Who says I can't start an attractive and profitable business venture as a second year undergrad?

It seems obvious that the catalyst for this recent development has been the reduced job opportunities that have resulted from the "crisis". The cost-cutting strategies employed by most firms along with degree inflation and large number of highly qualified young unemployed professionals in the City make it less straight-forward for many to find internships with the 'Big Four'.

Walia, however, explains his decision by affirming that he has less to lose at this stage in his life: "If it works, great! If it doesn't, I'll learn how to do things differently next time. I don't have the burden of the various responsibilities that you shoulder once you start a career." Walia values this more realistic approach over experience in Student Union societies. From this perspective, entrepreneurship seems to constitute an alternative way of achieving the same career path as previously desired.

Kreideweiss identifies a very different trend. "Students are attracted by the rapid personal and professional development opportunities that working for a start up brings with it (....) they feel that a start up environment will allow them to implement their ideas and passions quickly." Entrepreneurship, then, is an alternative outlet for value-driven and economically liberal students seeking an original career path. "Students don't need to make a decision between 'corporate' vs 'good cause' anymore, the thriving social enterprise sector allows them to incorporate both".

Whether this growing trend towards entrepreneurship is a symptom of the apathy towards unsatisfying Student Union outlets on campus or of the noble attempt of generation Y's hippies to materialize the triple-bottom line mentality, the fact that so many at the LSE are seeking to invest in a downturn is proof that LSE students have been attentive in EC102 and maintained their trademark values and high ambitions.

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