Career fairs are a rite of passage for every college student, and they can be overwhelming. A fast-growing Colorado State University startup company makes the whole experience better – for the students, and for the organizers.
A company called The Fairs App made its commercial debut in January of this year through CSU Ventures‘ technology transfer process, which brings CSU-developed technologies into the marketplace. The company’s product is a mobile and desktop application of the same name, invented by Jeremy Podany, executive director of the CSU Career Center, and Chris White, the career center’s web and app developer.
Not just career fairs
Since they piloted the app at CSU two years ago, they’ve expanded its target market not just to career fairs, but any similar event, like trade shows or conferences. The app is being used across the nation at major universities like Michigan State, UCLA, Indiana, Virginia Tech, Cornell, and Oklahoma State; at niche institutions like SD School of Mines and IIT; and regionally at the University of Wyoming, UC Denver, The All Colorado Business Fair, and the Larimer County Workforce Center. Tens of thousands of fair attendees have downloaded and used The Fairs App.
“With insight from the amazing CSU Career Center staff team, we built this initially for CSU students,” said Podany, who has more than 15 years of experience in the career and student services world. “We saw that we could address some common problems that are unique to university career fairs, by providing better preparedness, better education, and being able to access everything through the phone.”
Added White: “CSU students have responded to the progress we’ve made in the last two years, and we’ve had a lot of repeat customers,” he said. “We’ve made the app faster, and easier to navigate.”
How it works
In advance of the fair, organizers, such as the university or department, buy the app. They upload content including which companies will be there, what kind of companies they are, and what kind of applicants they’re looking for. All this info becomes available to whoever downloads the app (for free). A map can be uploaded to pinpoint exactly where companies will be physically set up at the fair. No more wandering around.
Universities typically have helped students prepare for career fairs by publishing printed materials on each company. These bound copies are expensive, time-consuming, and don’t provide real-time or last-minute information.
The Fairs App digitizes and modernizes the experience. Fair organizers upload their own, customizable information. Users provide feedback, such as “favoriting” companies. The app requires no login, and it can be accessed on a desktop, too.
“We saw a clear problem, and we solved it,” Podany said. “It turns out there’s a great desire for the product.”
The Fairs App is the second piece of technology Podany and White have spun out of the CSU Career Center. The first was Career Tools, commercialized through CSU Ventures’ Digital Works Program.