lördag 13 april 2013

Student Competitions

I went all the way to Kista earlier this week to listen to a lunch talk by Gustav Borgefalk, co-founder and head of business development at Student Competitions (http://studentcompetitions.com/).

As I have written earlier, me and Ph.D. student Daniel Svensson (KTH division of history of science, technology and environment) are working together, writing about competitions and the sportification of blue-collar (cross-country skiing) and white-collar (computer games, programming) professions/practices.

As I have furthermore written earlier, we submitted a paper (actually an abstract - the paper is not written yet) to a sports conference two months ago and another paper (actually another abstract) to a cultural studies conference one month ago (both conferences will be held this summer). We had already identified Student Competitions as an interesting company after having read a newspaper article about them (in Swedish), and the opportunity to listen to and get in touch with one of the co-founder proved to be too tempting to miss out on. (Other articles about the company is available through their online press room.)

The lunch talk was great. Student Competitions is all we wished for an then some more (they are for example already international and have organized competitions (remotely, from Sweden) in the US, Brazil, India, China and Malaysia). Chatting with Gustav after his talk, he was very interested in our research and invited me to hang around the office and interview him and some other people there (the company has quickly grown to around 20 persons).

Student Competitions is basically a head-hunting company ("challenge-driven recruitment"). And a marketing and perhaps also an event company. Instead of placing a job ad, some companies choose to organize a competition with the help of Student Competitions (for example "Business law challenge" or an architecture or business plan competition). Organizing a competition is thus a way both to find prospective employees, to market your company and perhaps also to get some new "not-invented-here" ideas. Or to sum the recruitment spiel up in Student Competition's business lingo, "to connect talent with demand". I think the idea is pretty cool and it would be great to talk to (interview) these guys - no matter exactly what they say, the results would make our day and fit our paper(s) perfectly.

The whole premise of their company is on the other hand to some extent (I guess) a threat to the authority and the value of universities who have had a near-monopoly on awarding credentials to students for hundreds of years (but that's another issue and besides the point in relation to our study...).

Student Competitions produce and market "the world's best competitions for students". They have more than 200 000 student members in their "network" (contact book?) and 400 "student ambassadors". They started 2009 (four students from KTH and Stockholm School of Entrepreneurship, SSE) and have grown since then, especially lately (2012). They now have a more advanced division of labor in the company with different people working with (and being responsible for) technology, finance, new business (that would be Gustav), marketing, operations and community. No less than 60% of their clients are already outside of Sweden. A short (1 minute) video about the company and their passion for competitions starts with the CEO stating that "we have all been competing since before birth" :-)

I think this is really cool and I look forward to interviewing a bunch of Student Competitions co-founders and employees later this spring (before the summer)!

PS (130415): Now it's decided - I will visit the office of Student Competitions in the beginning of May to present myself and our project and will be back two weeks later to conduct interviews with key personnel.

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