Campus News

Reverse Pitch transforms the traditional career fair

Two people stand at the front of a large lecture hall as students listen to their pitch.

43North Content Director Nate Benson, left, and Jen Reed, director of talent strategy for 43North, give a brief history of the organization's mission during the Reverse Pitch event. Photo: Nancy J. Parisi

By ROBBY JOHNSON

Published April 17, 2019

“I definitely wanted to know more and it turns out some of these companies are actually dealing with some really big clients.”
Jaskeerat Brar
UB computer science major

Eight 43North companies visited UB last week to participate in Reverse Pitch, a new approach to the traditional career fair where students had the opportunity to sit back, relax and listen to each company pitch that their organization was one to work for.

The idea came to the Western New York Incubator Network, which is managed by UB, after reading Brian Feld’s “Startup Communities: Building an Entrepreneurial Ecosystem in Your City.”

Since the Network never tried an idea like Reverse Pitch before, they gave it a chance and chose 43North, a startup competition funded by New York State’s Buffalo Billion initiative, as a partner to pilot it.

“The Reverse Pitch idea is fantastic because it just allows folks to get to know the companies,” said Nate Benson, director of content for 43North. “With a career fair, it’s pretty traditional with wandering around and hoping that a founder is there. This is an opportunity where the founders or high-level staff are coming to you and pitching why you should come intern with ACV Auctions, 43North or ForSake.”

Joining 43North and the Western New York Incubator Network in organizing the event were UB’s Business and Entrepreneur Partnerships office; Career Services; Inve[n|s]t; the Career Resource Center in the School of Management; the Department of Computer Science and Engineering; and UB’s Blackstone LaunchPad powered by Techstars.

Students crowd to the front of the lecture hall to network with business leaders.

Students had the chance to meet with representatives from each participating company individually after the presentations. Photo: Nancy J. Parisi

After an hour of getting to know each startup through a series of presentations, it was time for the students to go to work with their networking skills. Minutes after the final presentation, the room turned into a loud forum of discussion between employer and potential employee.

The experience, compared to a normal career fair, was different than usual for both sides because of its efficiency. Each student had a good idea of which companies they wanted to talk to because of the earlier presentations, while, on the other side, each company could talk to someone very interested in their organization.

Alex Montilla, a growth analyst for Burner Wellness, said that duality of benefits created by the event was evident, especially because the students that came up to him showed a lot of enthusiasm.

“It’s good for them to know they’re talking to a company that cares just as much as we like to know that they’re driven as an individual,” Montilla said.

“This has been great; there’s a lot of ambitious students just looking to gain experience. It’s great to give them an opportunity because it’s how I got my start as well. I was born and raised in Buffalo, interned with my company and now I have a full-time position. I can only hope that the same thing happens for some of the students here.”

Benson, who also talked with students about internships with 43North, said he was impressed by the students’ enthusiasm as well.

“The interactions have been fantastic,” Benson said. “[The students] are hungry to get to work, which from a startup perspective you’re looking for folks who are hungry to work, eager to learn and eager to lend whatever expertise they have.”

Most importantly, many students also felt the event was beneficial. Jaskeerat Brar, a computer science major at UB, said that he came to the event mainly for ACV Auctions, but was impressed by the other companies based on what he learned during the presentation phase.

“I knew that Buffalo had a good startup scene and this caught my eyes because there were eight companies coming and one of them was ACV Auctions,” Brar said. “I definitely wanted to know more and it turns out some of these companies are actually dealing with some really big clients.

“It was pretty cool. They were really enthusiastic about everything and I got contact info from some great people and asked them some questions about their product, how it worked and how they’re going to play it in the industry”

As the final students filed out with the event’s completion, it was apparent to Tom Murdock, manager of the Western New York Incubator, that the event was a success and that another Reverse Pitch could definitely happen down the line.

“We saw a lot of companies interested to come in and a lot of students interested. It wasn’t hard to sell,” Murdock said. “What we’ll do now is follow up with each of the companies from here and asses how this works for them and how it can work better. We did this one with 43North, so maybe in the future we do one with just life sciences or all software companies.”