Finding internships can be tough enough, but virtual internships? Where would one begin? Talan Torriero is answering the question with the launch of his new business, CyberInterns.com. The MTV Laguna Beach reality star-turned actor-turned entrepreneur said he could rarely find opportunities which offered both the benefits of interning and the convenience of virtual communication. That’s when he knew he found an opportunity to create a site for both applicants and employers alike.
After launching CyberInterns on February 1st, he’s already seen a strong response and is gearing up to start approaching colleges and universities marketing the site as a useful resource for a more flexible type of industry learning experience. The site is free for internship seekers and has various listing fees for employers.
What inspired the idea for CyberInterns.com?
In the last four years I’ve had the opportunity to intern at some pretty incredible places from Warner Brothers Records to Akiva Goldsman’s Production Company. Interning for Akiva Goldsman was the best experience I think I could have had. It was an inspiration being in the presence of such talent who wrote many hits including A Beautiful Mind, Cinderella Man, and Batman & Robin.
In the past two years I got the social media bug and decided to switch gears career wise. I enrolled in the University of San Francisco (online) and got an internship at Lunch.com, a company that is improving the way people relate through personal reviews (Which I think is very ahead of its time). While interning there I learned a very valuable lesson from CEO/Founder J.R. Johnson which was to think ahead, push boundaries, and do something innovative. This was coming from the guy who started VirtualTourist.com, one of the first sites to apply user generated content. At the time he couldn’t get an investor to believe that people would want to read reviews from non-professional writers/travelers. He later sold the company to Expedia
After my experience with Lunch.com, I scoured the internet looking for a new internship. I wanted to work in the social media/entertainment field but couldn’t find any local companies that fit my busy schedule. That was until I came across some virtual internships. I had never heard of the concept before and had to go through a ton of different website until I found these virtual internship opportunities (I would say every 60th internship was virtual).
This process of having to sign up for all different sites and going through their listings was long and painful. I said to myself, there has to be a website that just caters to students looking for just virtual internships (as 1/3 of all internships are now virtual and that will continue to increase dramatically over the next year). Thus, CyberInterns.com was born!
What kinds of small businesses are ideal for using your site?
With this economy (and the garbage that it is in) almost all businesses can use a virtual intern. I would say the biggest market is startups with little seed money that need all the help they can get…and interns are willing to give it! With the continuing advances in technology, this market (virtual internships) will continue to grow! Did you know that on average everyone in the U.S. works from home at least one day a week!? I think from an employer’s standpoint, there are many benefits. One being that you can now have a much larger applicant pool (as you can hire someone anywhere in the world …this makes me really excited) and it is extremely cost effective (lowers overhead costs). Hiring a virtual intern gives students that cannot afford to pack up, move to New York (let’s say), and work for free to gain valuable career experience. Now students can work for a substantial company in the comfort of his own home, so from an intern’s perspective this also is extremely cost effective.
What’s the difference between a virtual intern and a virtual assistant to you?
Great question. I’d say that a virtual intern is someone looking to gain valuable career-driven experience from the bottom level of a large (or small) corporation. A virtual assistant is someone who takes on the role of assisting a company with random tasks virally. This person is getting paid and is not doing it for the experience but more as a part time job. And don’t get me wrong some companies post virtual internships on our site that are “paid” (usually minimum wage). They do this as they understand a starving college student needs some money to get by and that way they can focus on the tasks at hand and not have to juggle it with a part-time job.
What has been your biggest challenge while starting the site?
The biggest challenges thus far have been dealing with the amount of attention the site has been getting (which is a good thing ;)) and the fact that with this new found attention we need to grow and expand exponentially. I’m excited to announce that I just recently closed a deal for an undisclosed amount of startup capital from a private investor. The money is going to go towards building an entirely new website that is more suitable to this market. I can’t discuss too much information about it but we are now looking to become a huge player in the world of virtual internships as this is an untapped market that we feel we can succeed in, but we need to get the ball rolling. I literally just got off the phone with our web designers and they are coding the new site as we speak! I hope to be an innovator in this space and push some boundaries. I will keep you in the loop when we relaunch the site, which will be very very soon! After the upgraded version of the site is built I plan on doing a nation wide tour of colleges and universities hoping to educate students about the advantages of virtual internships. There are some pretty exciting things in the pipeline!
How have you generated awareness and found employers to advertise their internships?
We’ve been fortunate enough to have employer’s post virtual internships on the site. But I will say that our number is increasing everyday. With the complete redesign and structure of the site and the more interviews and speaking engagements I can do, the more people will become aware of the advantages of virtual internships…thus more virtual internships will be posted on our website.
What are your listing fees?
As of now, the sites revenue model is based on a pay per listing fee. Employers pay $49.00 for a 30 day listing, $65.00 for a 60 day listing, and $87.00 for a 90 day listing. We plan to never charge students looking for internships, as most competing sites do, because most of the time they will be working for free/college credit. These prices are tentative as we will be rolling out a ton of new features extremely soon to help make the experience of applying for a virtual internship more suitable to this new market.
How have you generated awareness to job applicants?
We’re in the process of educating applicants as virtual internships are not a household name just yet, but they will be! I think the biggest skepticism is that applicants are afraid because an internship is “virtual” that it doesn’t hold as much weight as an actual internship. But that’s far from true, in fact they can be just as legitimate as a standard internship from an employer’s perspective looking to hire. It’s something we need to get people informed about!
Tell us about your current virtual internship with CoverAwards.com and how does it work?
At the moment I’m currently interning for an online publication ran by Mark Pasetsky (Was managing editor of OK! Magazine, Former Editor-In-Chief of Life & Style Magazine, and former vice president of MTV Networks Online.) He operates out of New York and the process of interning for him has been incredible! We talk on the phone a couple times a week and I help with the social media side of the publication. This virtual experience allowed me to get a substantial internship for a very reputable company and I can do this all on my own time. I’m living proof that this process is extremely manageable and effective.
It’s quite similar to the way an actual internship is performed. My boss…who I have to give a shout out to cause he’s so creditable in his field and is such a stand up guy!, and I talk 2-3 times a week and are in constant contact via email, based on the schedule we have made that works for both himself and for my schedule. Fortunately for me, Mark totally understands the virtual internship concept and has created a streamline system. By that I mean that Mark and I set goals for the semester and we then apply those goals on a week to week basis
(ex: increasing Facebook likes, twitter followers, social engagement, etc.)
At the end of the semester we then go over the accomplishments I’ve made that can attribute to my professional portfolio when applying for a job. I would say the number one tool that should be used from an employer’s standpoint in a virtual internship is communication, as the same rule applies for a standard internship.
The more the employer communicates with his virtual intern, the more he/she is going to benefit from hiring them. And the same applies for the intern. I juggle schoolwork, a virtual internship, CyberInterns.com, and a social life (my girlfriend haha) all at once. And to be honest having a virtual internship has allowed me to gain credible experience that fits into the structure of my everyday life. It’s a win win!
What’s your best advice to raise capital?
My advice to entrepreneurs looking to raise capitol is to first create a business that either A) finds a simple solution to a common problem B) Capitalizes on a new market C) is forward thinking. I also think a lot of entrepreneurs, especially younger ones, think that their new endeavor needs to be a final product out the gate. Meaning that they think they need to be where they see their company
in 5 years on their launch day. To start a new business, you need to have an innovative idea and stick with it. I can definitely admit that I have had many great ideas but never took serious action. “You can’t catch a fish without your line in the water.” The point is you have to start somewhere; Anywhere. And then build upon that starting point. Create reasonable goals and try to meet them. The road at the beginning is rocky but if you can make it through the storm it will only get easier as the business grows. Then when you have established a business that is showing some numbers (revenue, user base, generating buzz) and feel you’re reading to take your business to the next level, I’d suggest seeking some seed money.
Another piece of advice is to use all the resources you have around you. You might be surprised how many of your friends or family can help out. Maybe your friend is a graphic designer and can design a logo for you. Maybe your brother knows how to build websites. Hey how about hiring virtual interns from CyberInterns.com? There are many students who are willing to help a company and learn what it’s like to start a business from the ground up. Hiring a virtual intern is extremely cost effective (no salaries, no office space, no parking, no paid lunches, no overhead, the list goes on) as most students can work for college credit.
Where do you see CyberInterns.com in 5 years from now?
I hope to see CyberInterns.com being a big time player in the virtual internship market. We hope to be the number one source for employers looking to connect with students looking for virtual internships. As the numbers continue to grow (virtual internships) we hope to grow with it. We hope to constantly be adding new features to the site that will evolve and grow with technology. A far out there goal would be for one day all work would be done by logging into your
CyberInterns.com account and could be tracked by the employer. Another idea is would be integrating with a company like Skype would allow live interviews to be done on the site in real time…that would be cool! I mean the sky is the limit but we will continue to evolve as the market changes in the forthcoming years ahead!
How did you balance your acting career with your entrepreneurial goals?
I was definitely fortunate enough to have opportunities to be in some movies, which don’t get me wrong, was extremely cool, but my heart has always lied in being an entrepreneur. I started my first business when I was 12 called “Banana Hammocks”. Growing up I was a surfer and had always gotten rashes on the inside of my thighs from the seams of my swim trunks. So I took spandex biking shorts and wore them underneath my swim trunks to help remove the friction from the seams. I slapped on a logo and re-marketed those spandex shorts to the surfing market and a business was born! Now I can’t say that it made me a million dollars (I think I probably made like 200.00 haha) but that drive has been inside of me for a long time. I am now focusing full time on CyberInterns.com because I believe nothing can be a success unless you give it 111%!
I understand you were on Laguna Beach…Tell us, for fun, what’s one thing that might surprise us about reality television?
I’d say one surprise about reality television is that just because someone is portrayed to be “someone else” on a show doesn’t mean that is exactly who they are in real life. I still meet people who have preconceived notions about who I am or what I like and don’t like. But the truth is that that person people know was somewhat of a character because from a production stand point they have to edit and structure the show to be entertaining. And also that was 6 and a half years ago!
Use the coupon code “Under30CEO” to get a free 30-day listing at cyberinterns.