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Fredrik van Huynh 4:23

We’re looking for for a cure. Students are curious, open-minded, looking to really have a new cultural experience. And that’s going to really like help them in their future career. Those are three very critical things that we’re looking for.

Jeremy Weisz 4:40

Is there an age range? Like if someone’s in high school, can they apply to college?

Fredrik van Huynh 4:45

Yeah, we actually launched Yeah, we actually launched the high school program a few months ago, which I’m very, very proud of. So high school students are more than welcome to to apply students who just graduate from college are welcome. So not a problem at all.

Jeremy Weisz 5:00

So you have a meeting, if they fit the criteria, they pay a $500 deposit, then what happens next? Is there a matching process?

Fredrik van Huynh 5:11

That’s right. So they’re matched with one of our, we don’t match with one of our team members from the student success team, we call it, who doesn’t have a one to one or to students, to really try to identify what the student is looking for, let’s say the student want to do a remote internship in Sweden. Alright, what are the hours the student can commit to whatever expectations do they have? What type of industries the students are interested in? We’ll manage their expectations. And based on that, we’ll start to reach out to the company networks that we have in Sweden, and then try to set up interviews for students.

Jeremy Weisz 5:46

And they can choose a path that they want it to be in person or remote. At this point.

Fredrik van Huynh 5:52

That’s correct. That’s correct. So in the beginning, do an application to choose if they want to do it in person, or if they want to do it remotely?

Jeremy Weisz 6:00

So now from the corporate side, let’s say a company’s listening to this. And Fredrik Yeah, we love some interns who could possibly grow in our company and be hired later on, how does it work for a corporation or organization.

Fredrik van Huynh 6:15

So let’s say you’re a company in London right now to interested to join us and work with us, they will essentially reach out to us via email. And then we will set up a one to one meeting over zoom or Google meet to get to know each other, then we have like an internal protocol on things that we need to ensure embed. So that sort of company is meeting the expectations and standards, so to speak, that we have in order to welcome the intern. And then we appreciate the job description, and mission statements, so to speak, what type of job that the student would be doing. And after that, we’re ready and set the goal so to speak.

Jeremy Weisz 7:01

And let’s say all works out. Are the some of these free, are they paid? Is there a minimum amount for certain incorporation side?

Fredrik van Huynh 7:12

The services free of charge for the for the companies to corporations, they’re willing to pay the students if they want to? So that we leave that up to the companies? Most companies don’t? There are some that do. So yeah.

Jeremy Weisz 7:27

And then how long is it? It doesn’t last? Typically,

Fredrik van Huynh 7:30

it lasts between one to six months. Got it? And then after that is about two months.

Jeremy Weisz 7:36

After that they can’t keep the person on potentially,

Fredrik van Huynh 7:41

they can? Absolutely there’s a lot of companies that do that.

Jeremy Weisz 7:46

So how do you I see you have a $500 fee for setup, what are the other ways that you monetize are able to monetize the Absolute Internship,

Fredrik van Huynh 7:56

the $500, just to program to pass it, then they pay the remaining fee to students. And that can be from 1300 up to 5000 Depending on where they’re going. The way we’re monetizing it this that we’re charging the students for the universities that we do have a lot of university relationships where the universities essentially outsource their international internship programming to us. They say, hey, Freddy, we need a program in Barcelona for 80 students. We need them to do it for eight weeks. We need the accommodation. We need visa support, we need cultural activities. Can you do it? So we give them a program fee that we negotiate? And, and then we do the work for them, essentially.

Jeremy Weisz 8:45

So you can customize these programs for them?

Fredrik van Huynh 8:48

Absolutely. We’ve been doing it for 12 years or so.

Jeremy Weisz 8:51

So talk about the initial idea to do this because I know in the very beginning there were humble beginnings, where you worked out of one of your family members rooms to start this. What was the original idea?

Fredrik van Huynh 9:06

original idea was the way we came up with it was living in Bangkok back then just graduated, it was watching Sopranos. And I was like, Hey, I remember when I was in Japan and these classmates from the US they were looking for summer internships and I helped them. Let me look up summer internships. So literally googling summer internships. I’m saying that because people might be laughing but it’s not a big it’s not a big deal internships in Sweden, they were not so I was Googling it. And I’ll okay. And I found this company in the US and they were selling internship programs in New York City for $12,000. And they had 400 students each summer. And I was like, wow, if they can afford under students. We could have 400 students in China because people speak English in New York. You need help in China. Not in the US, you know? So that was the original idea, Jeremy, I sought a business model. And I was like, okay, that, that can cost too much to set up. I just need a website, they have an office and you know, but I don’t think people go to visit an office to look for an internship. That was the original idea, Jeremy

Jeremy Weisz 10:19

Talk about there was one instance in Hong Kong with a small fin tech company.

Fredrik van Huynh 10:26

Yeah, so just during the pandemic, so we’ve been running the program in Hong Kong for a decade now like successfully sending students from, from from all around the world to Hong Kong to do internships in Hong Kong for Hong Kong, for people that have never been there is basically the New York, New York State of the East. Basically, it’s fast paced. skyscrapers, like everywhere, I think, in Hong Kong is more skyscrapers than New York City, actually. And we are this company, a FinTech company, who basically scaled down because of the pandemic, and office cost extremely expensive, like in Manhattan. And thanks to the pandemic, it takes our remote internship program, they were able to launch a structured remote internship program where they still were able to welcome like international interns, working for them, building skills and adding value to the company whilst being remote being from anywhere in the world. And it helped this company continue to survive and succeed because they were funded. So

Jeremy Weisz 11:36

very cool. Is there there was another one in Sweden, which was a scooter company.

Fredrik van Huynh 11:43

Exactly, we work with them. One of the hottest startups while I don’t know if you want to call him a startup number extremely established not only Sweden, but all across Europe is called boy. It’s like lime, the lime in the US to basically just like use your your, your phone, and you can just like book one, you can just drive around and shake. Things go fast. They go extremely fast. Yeah. Anyway, so we had students interning with them. And they were so happy with the students and wonderful students were from Hong Kong, and they were like, you know, what, just bring one scooter back to Hong Kong. So really, really nice way, like a really appreciate you, but just bring one scooter back to Hong Kong, you know, instead of like paying them. So really cool story.

Jeremy Weisz 12:34

I’m curious, you know, Fredrik, when you’re doing this, how do you decide to charge? Right? Was it because that was the standard, you know, charging the student as opposed to charging the corporation, I see how the university works, what made you decide to choose kind of that business model for Absolute Internship?

Fredrik van Huynh 12:55

I wish to have like a theoretical answer. But it was more in the gut feeling. I was like, this is like a company in the US the word the forefront, they were charging the students. And I was like, it was just a year ago that I was a student. And I was like, if students are willing to pay 50,000 60,000 65,000 per year to study just how much they would like, which I mean, I do respect that, you know, it’s important to have a degree, but there are so many people with a degree, you want work experience, you need work experience and internships are on the rise. You know, I was like, you know, what, why don’t we flip it? Let’s ride this wave, you know, and it’s been working well, and you know, I would, I would, I would, I would like to say that the first year were not easy. You know, they were not easy at all, because it was a completely new business model. And, and we got a lot of negative feedback. But I think in the end, we’re able to survive, and we’ve been like building a very, very successful company.

Jeremy Weisz 13:56

What was some of the feedback you got early on? You said you got negative feedback?

Fredrik van Huynh 14:00

Yeah, I think a lot of students and parents and companies there were saying, Well, why are you charging the students, you’re taking advantage of poor college students, and I was like, I don’t think I’m taking advantage of poor college students are paying $50,000 per year, you know, and it’s really up to the student themselves. This is the program for students that really want to invest in their future, you know, and there is like, there’s a lot of free ways to do international internship, you know, you might know a cousin you might know an uncle to to help you hook you up with an internship in Sweden or in China, you know, this is just an awkward, this is just an alternative for those that don’t have those connections.

Jeremy Weisz 14:39

You know, there were I want to talk about some of the milestones along the journey. One of them that sticks out is in your four of your day. Yeah, happened in your fourth.

Fredrik van Huynh 14:51

Um, when we got featured on Forbes?

Jeremy Weisz 14:56

that and also, I want to thank

Fredrik van Huynh 14:59

my friend For a salary exam, yeah, that was a big deal. That was a big deal, Jeremy. Because I think you know what, for entrepreneurs out there, or people that are thinking about becoming entrepreneurs, people really overestimate what they can achieve in a year. But they underestimate what they can achieve in five years or in 10 years. That I’m saying that because I want to get to my story and man, just to like, live on instant coffee, rice and eggs, pasta and tomato sauce for years. It takes a toll on you, you know, like, I love the grind. I love the process. You know, I live with my mother in law for a year, you know, free rent and free food. You know, and like living living extremely humbled. You know, I remember I just to two pair of trousers because I need one fancy one to meet customers and companies, and one relaxed pair of jeans for the weekends. But I think a lot of entrepreneurs are not not willing to, to live humble enough for under their their means, so to speak, in order to like reach their dreams. And I think it was a very emotional, like, emotional milestone, when that happened.

Jeremy Weisz 16:20

What kept you going? You know, I could see someone, okay, you’re one I’m enduring this year two, I’m enduring this year or three, maybe I should just get a job somewhere.

Fredrik van Huynh 16:34

Um, I do a lot of things there. Me and a lot of things. I’m a very self motivated guy. You know, I used to play table tennis professionally when I was young. I think I got a lot of motivation from from sports, waking up early to go and train when it’s winter when it’s snowy. But I think one thing that really helped was the book Think and Grow Rich by Napoleon Hill. I read that and I think a lot of entrepreneurs read books, but they fail to like, apply. And I was like, this book has worked for billionaires like 100 years ago, it shouldn’t work for me, I don’t want to be a billionaire. I just want to be like, having a good living, you know, and I started to write down things, I started to write down my goals and start to follow the protocol, like follow what was written in a book. And I’m not saying that just sitting here and thinking positive things, things gonna happen to you magically happen. No, I believe in like, okay, setting goals, reading your goals, and then taking massive action and have like a really strong belief that it’s going to happen. I think that that that really helped. Number two, just like, every single break morning, lunchtime after work, I would like watch motivational YouTube videos. I get a little bit like, happy now but that you asked me this, because this morning, I rewatched a super motivational YouTube video by The Rock and the Rock. I remember, he kept me going back in 2014 15, you know, by his motivational Instagram posts and YouTube videos, I was watching that every single day, you know. And taking that to heart and be like, You know what, I’m going to make it it’s just a matter of time, you know. And thirdly, I think the encouraging words from a mother who said that the overnight success from her humble eyes and life experience has been that it takes about 10 years to build a successful business. And I was like, I just been to year three, year four, like, it’s going in the right direction. It’s not like like, we’re going down, it’s going in the right direction. So it’s just a matter of time before we hit the jackpot until we make it so to speak.

Jeremy Weisz 18:58

You were seeing traction.

Fredrik van Huynh 19:00

Exactly. Yeah, exactly.

Jeremy Weisz 19:02

Talk about you know, it’s a dual sided marketplace, which is tough, right? Because you have students you have corporations, universities, you what were some of the things that you did early on to get customers.

Fredrik van Huynh 19:18

So getting the companies let me start with that. It was fairly easy. Okay, but getting the paying customers, the students. We were doing two things. Basic. The first one I was living on Twitter, Twitter back then was huge. I was commenting. Like mentioning people, anyone I mentioned internships are just talking to them. And it was not like I was selling them something. It was okay, what are you looking for? And I was trying to coach them. So we’ve got a lot of students from that. And secondly, since we didn’t have a marketing budget, the first money like that we saved up like from the paying customers the first Few ones I’m talking about the first three to five. I was like, You know what we need to move close to the campuses, like where the students are, let’s talk to them face to face, you know? So that’s right. That’s what we did. I basically moved to the UK never been to UK, like, you know, there’s a lot of students there is Europe, US is big that this is a huge, UK is little bit more manageable. We can go to campuses just over today, basically just lived a move to the UK, found a place on Airbnb booked it and moved there. And just went to campuses each day tried to speak to students.

Jeremy Weisz 20:38

So So you show up on campus, right? You’re hustling? What do you do?

Fredrik van Huynh 20:43

I went to all the student societies, Student Union, International Office Study Abroad Office. And you know, a lot of universities were very welcoming a lot. We’re not a lot of societies were welcoming a lot we’re not. So it was all about building goodwill and trying to to help the students, I basically became a public speaker as well, since I’ve lived in China for for four years, I came up with this concept that, hey, let me teach people about how to do business in China. And I became very successful. So I went to this talk for free on campuses, and that became a thing. And a lot of students became excited about it, and sign up for a program.

Jeremy Weisz 21:32

That’s great. So you show up to the Student Association, you’d say, I have some potential internship opportunity, let me tell you, they’d have you speak to the group. And they’d hear about the opportunity and get to meet you.

Fredrik van Huynh 21:46

Exactly, exactly.

Jeremy Weisz 21:48

And then how did you then release that across other campuses? Because you went, you know, all over the place? Like I mentioned, you know, you you know, there’s in London, Madrid, Paris, did you end up replicating that same process? Or did you do it more remote online,

Fredrik van Huynh 22:07

the first thing we did was physical, like face to face. After I became remotely, obviously, I’ve been to Madrid and Lisbon and all the other cities. But like, once we got a lot of traction of the first big, big groups of students, it became much easier to sign up more students. We didn’t have to hustle as hard. We still had to hustle like to get students and customers but not as hard so to speak, people started we started to get referrals. Students, they have siblings and have cousins. Exactly, exactly. There was that we started to get universities reaching out to us, which was completely new. We never thought that this could be a b2b business, you know. So

Jeremy Weisz 22:52

the University started reaching out about what we were talking about. They go we have 50 students that need to go to this place.

Fredrik van Huynh 23:00

Exactly, exactly. We’re like, wow, this is amazing. This could be a b2b business. So yeah.

Jeremy Weisz 23:06

There was an Indian student in the UK.

Fredrik van Huynh 23:11

Yes, amazing story. So I love meeting people and students and I have an immigrant background. So I resonate a lot with international students or students that that have immigrant parents, so to speak. And where the student from from India is that, okay? I’m an international student. I’ve been to the, to the Career Center, they’ve been telling me I need to be land, I need to be getting an internship with a reputable company, a fortune 500. I can’t be wasting my time with a small company, it’s not going to add value. Can you help me get like a big company in China this summer? This was a first year student. And I was like, Listen, please. There are millions of other international students just look around. Because we’re like in a big conference hall with a lot of other students. Look how many other international students are here. Like what makes you unique, you know, you don’t have any experience. Why would like a big company, like recruit you, you have nothing unique that you can offer? You know, I told them, it’s normal that your career center is promoting these companies, because they are the big sponsors to your university. They’re there every year, you know. So this is the only company that your career center knows. What you need to do is just to go to China and intern for any company doesn’t matter if it’s like a five people company or a 25. Because in the end of the day, it’s about the soft skills and the skills that you’re going to gain throughout your summer in China and that’s going to make you unique, because once you come back you’re not only the the international Indian student with a UK degree, you’re now an Indian student with a UK degree and China internship under your belt and that’s going to make us turned out, that’s gonna help you stay in Europe and the UK afterwards. Two years later, he landed a job where the conduct, like huge company in the UK was able to stay. And he’s in the UK since that day, you know. So I think that speaks volumes about that. It’s not about the company that you’re getting into. It’s about the life experience. It’s about the country that you’re going to, and it’s about the cultural experience and immersion that you will be getting.

Jeremy Weisz 25:30

Yeah, further speaking of cultural immersion, there was a Midwest student.

Fredrik van Huynh 25:37

Yes. So back in 2016. I was in Beijing, China, and we’re hosting this big group of students, and one of them were different from the, from the Midwest. And they never been abroad from a small, small town. This was his first time abroad. And he was telling me that this is my first time abroad. I don’t know anybody. Here in China, I feel really nervous. And I was like, Don’t worry, just be open minded. Speak slowly. Don’t don’t assume anything. And talk to people immerse yourself like 100%, eat street food, talk to strangers, try different things, do things that you never done before. So I followed his journey. And six weeks later, he was going back home, and we had his farewell dinner together. And he was like, You know what, Freddy? I really want to thank you, because you really changed my mind and changed my life. And the experience that you’re given to students, I think is really important. Because if you can change one person’s life, you know, you can change like 1000s I wished more people from my town back in the US who go to the same church who vote for the same political party could have the same experience that I’ve had, because I’m sure they would see the world differently. And that, you know, when he said that, I was like, man, like, I’m not just inspiring people, you know, like, I’m actually helping. I don’t know if it sounds cocky, but I’m gonna say it again. But what we tried to do, what I realized is that we’re doing an Absolute Internship is that we’re helping making the world a little bit better, a little bit better, like people become more tolerant, people become more open minded, and are changed, you know, for the better.

Jeremy Weisz 27:31

So what made him talking and what made him decide to do that get out of his comfort zone, and maybe a smaller Midwest town to broaden his horizon? Because it is thing you said he was probably scared from the get go, it’s out of your comfort zone? What pushed him to actually do it?

Fredrik van Huynh 27:53

I think, number one, I think because the school funded it, so you just have to pay for the credits. And number two, that they went that he didn’t go alone, he knew that there was a group, it was going as a group, there will be other people from the US and other countries. And I think those two things.

Jeremy Weisz 28:16

And the group was people from all over the US together came together.

Fredrik van Huynh 28:20

Exactly, exactly.

Jeremy Weisz 28:23

You know, some time, I want you to talk about optics for a second and and there was a university that came to visit you and when a university come to visit, you want to show them probably a fancy office, that you have this nice place so that they will feel comfortable sending you students because you are, you know, quote unquote, legitimate because you have this nice office. So I want you to talk about one when that one university came to visit you.

Fredrik van Huynh 28:52

Yeah, that’s a big miss misconception that I had. So I had this big dream since I started Absolute Internship to build a company where I could work from anywhere. But very quickly, I realized that they we need like a fancy office, I need to wear a suit. Literally suit and tie and like this is like serious business. We need to be legitimate. We need to be serious. So people can take us like actually can can take a seriously so to speak. So we had offices in Hong Kong, Shanghai, and in London, and they were very expensive office addresses. That year, we had at the university coming to visit us a school that now we’ve been doing business for a couple of years. So they knew us very well. And we’ve been visiting their campus as well. So we’re we’re in a very friendly note, so to speak. And when she came to our office, like we’re moving offices, so the office was fairly empty, but in a very expensive place. So she was like, You know what, guys? And you know, Freddy, she said it in a very casual note like I don’t think You guys need an office here. Like you guys could work from an island or from from anywhere like you guys know the city, you know, the culture, like our students always have a great time are always like in safe hands with you guys. And when she said that I really really like changed my mind. I was like, hey, like we don’t have to be here you know, I can be like back home in Sweden or I can be working from Thailand or from Spain, Barcelona from ever I want. And and I think that was a it was a big, big milestone for us.

Jeremy Weisz 30:35

Freddy talk about building a team, because you have a whole team behind you and some of the partnership people, co founder people, other people on the team that’s helped you.

Fredrik van Huynh 30:50

What would you like to know? Jeremy?

Jeremy Weisz 30:52

What were some important positions? Because at first it was you. Right? And then how did you grow? The team? What were the important positions that you brought on

Fredrik van Huynh 31:02

that day, it was a lot of trial and error, especially since we’re so young, you know, Jeremy, because in our I just graduated, just done one corporate job before interning in a bank. I knew nothing about building a team. All I knew was like watching YouTube videos, podcasts, and reading books, tons of books on how to build a team. It was a lot of trial and error. Basically, looking at the businesses, okay, where do we need help? One thing that really helped me as an entrepreneur, I’m sure a lot of entrepreneurs listening could resonate with this was okay, what are the things that basic, someone that could be paid $20 per hour could do that I don’t want to do you know, another key question that I had was, what am I good at? And what am I not good at, and then ensure have people to do the things that I was not good at. So I could do more of things that I was really good at, so to speak. I think those are two things. And then thirdly, I mean, ensuring that you have cash flow to pay your people I think is extremely important.

Jeremy Weisz 32:12

Totally. Freddy. I have one last question. Before I ask it, I want to point people towards To learn more, if you’re a corporation, if you are a student, if you are a university, you can check it out at Absolute Internship comm learn more about what they’re working on. You know, I know it seems like Friday throughout this journey, learning is a big thing for you. And so I’d love to hear some of your favorite books. You mentioned Think and Grow Rich, what are some other favorite books you recommend and that been influential for you?

Fredrik van Huynh 32:52

I’ve read a lot of books. That has been very influential. I think a second one that was extremely influential and helped me a lot was a book called Shark Tales by Barbara Corcoran. So Barbara Corcoran is the founder of The Corcoran Group, like she built a back then it was a $40 million business, but I resonated a lot by Barbara Corcoran. For those that don’t know, like she was, she’s on Shark Tank, she has been on Shark Tank as well like extremely, extremely inspirational woman. And what I love from her book, that there’s a lot of like concrete action tips that you can take on today to apply when you’re starting your business. And that’s what I love. And I applied everything that she wrote to my business, and I did it right away. And that’s how I basically got featured on Forbes and BBC and New York Times and etc. Another book that has been extremely influential. Let me see is the book by Mark Cuban I can’t remember the title, but I think it’s $2 He only did the Kindle version. I’m a big fan of Mark Cuban. I used to and I am still I well back then I printed out quotes by Mark Cuban I put them on a wall basically a four papers and, and I love that. Basically when people came to our office at absolut, the first thing they saw was everyday there’s someone waking up. Who wants to kick your ass so by Mark Cuban I love the fourth book is How to Win Friends Win Friends and Influence People by Dale Carnegie always been an extrovert, but that book like because I grew up like my parents. They worked in a factory like we didn’t have many connections like no one gone to the university. So I didn’t know anyone when I grew up. So one of the most important things I wanted to accomplish was to get to know people and build my network. This was one of the best books and it’s a very, very old book. And that’s what I appreciate with it. So I think those are four solid books, Jeremy, I mean, I could go for the entire day. But those are four very, very solid books.

Jeremy Weisz 35:11

Freddy you had an offer of someone to purchase it at one point. Right?

Fredrik van Huynh 35:18

The company? Yeah, the company or? Yes, it does happen a few times. Yeah. Jeremy.

Jeremy Weisz 35:24

So what made you decide to not go down that path?

Fredrik van Huynh 35:30

Um, I think, first of all, I’m having a lot of fun. I’m really, really like waking up and I’m like, I’m excited to work. You know, like, I don’t see it as work is my hobby, you know, to Absolute Internship. Number two, I don’t think I would have no, I think I wouldn’t know what to do with the money selling the company. And I think it’s extremely dangerous. Let’s say somebody say, Hey, Jeremy, here’s 15 million. There’s 10 million, like, what would you do? I think a lot of entrepreneurs would know what to do with it. I think a lot of immature people would say, Well, you just started another company. It’s not like that. That’s like getting into a new marriage, you know, and you have to go right now. Like, I think that’s very, very important thing. And then lastly, I don’t know what I would do with the free time you know, I think it’s an important I think I know time is the only commodity we can’t buy. But I’m just having a great time and I’m very happy you know, and I think happiness is very underrated.

Jeremy Weisz 36:41

Freddy one of the first one that thank you everyone, check out and thanks everyone for listening. Thanks Freddy

Fredrik van Huynh 36:50

Thank you very much, Jeremy.