Seinfeld on Startups: Kramerica and Free Labor

Seinfeld on Startups: Kramerica and Free Labor

The biggest issue with writing this series is that my research involves watching a lot of Seinfeld reruns.  Lucky for me, it happens to be the greatest series ever done – with apologies to diehard Cavemen fans (somehow ABC decided this could be a good idea)

One of the more business-focused plot lines on the show involved Kramer and his corporate conglomerate – Kramerica Industries.  The premise was Kramer’s innovative solution to end maritime oil spills as we know them.  The rubber-bladder system for oil tankers never really took off, but that isn’t the point here.    

Who can forget the go-getter of go-getters – Darren?  He was every intern’s hero.  And the best part for Kramerica?  He worked for free!!  As my wife can attest, that is one of my favorite words.  I know people love to say that you get what you pay for, but I think this might be an exception – depending on the quality of the “Darren” you are able to recruit.

Working in a university setting as I do, I have seen a trend over the last several years of fewer paid internships and more pro-bono positions.  The economy has no doubt driven much of that, but what an opportunity.  I know every firm isn’t based in a college town, but most everyone has fairly close access to a community or private college.

I encourage you to reach out to their career and placement offices or even professors in majors you are looking to attract.  Let them know what you are looking for; find out what they offer and how you might take advantage of the internship programs available.  Many times the schools have college-credit options, work-study, independent study and other ways to make it work so the student gets some form of compensation.  And even if you do have to pay them, $8 or $9 an hour for a graphic design student to revamp your web presence is a pretty sweet deal.

If nothing else, having someone around to pick up the dry cleaning and schedule lunches is always handy, especially if your schedule is as hectic as Kramer’s.  How he managed to juggle it all, I will never know.

Dan Beenken, Director of UNI Small Business Development Center

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