Co-​​op jobs with start-​​ups present great oppor­tu­ni­ties for stu­dents to learn about entre­pre­neur­ship. But new ven­tures are often cash-​​strapped and lack the resources to hire stu­dent employees.

A new ini­tia­tive, how­ever, has begun pairing North­eastern stu­dents with star­tups, many of which are run by the university’s alumni. The ini­tia­tive began last year as a pilot pro­gram between North­eastern and Mass­Chal­lenge, an annual global startup com­pe­ti­tion and accel­er­ator pro­gram for entre­pre­neurs, and has con­tinued this month with a new round of co-​​op students.

Working for start-​​ups, which gen­er­ally employ a small number of people, gives stu­dents a unique oppor­tu­nity to wear many hats and work inde­pen­dently, say those involved in the program.

Shay McDo­nough, for example, a senior infor­ma­tion sci­ence major at North­eastern, is com­pleting her final co-​​op at EverTrue, a ven­ture that went through the Mass­Chal­lenge accel­er­ator. The small startup builds mobile appli­ca­tions con­necting col­lege alumni with fea­tures like an open direc­tory, maps and LinkedIn integration.

In other jobs, there may be a lot of estab­lished processes and you often assim­i­late to how things have always been done,” said McDo­nough, who focuses on client ser­vices for EverTrue. “Here you’re breaking new ground, so often doing things that no one at the com­pany has ever done before.”

McDo­nough works with Tony DiPasquale, a 2011 Col­lege of Engi­neering grad­uate who develops appli­ca­tions for the year-​​old venture.

This is the kind of co-​​op I’d have loved to have had at North­eastern,” DiPasquale said. “This job comes with very real respon­si­bility. You play an impor­tant part on a small staff, doing work that’s incred­ibly impor­tant for the growth of the company.”

You get great expo­sure — you’re the CEO of what­ever you’re doing,” added Scott Bailey, MassChallenge’s director of part­ner­ships. “You have real respon­si­bil­i­ties and duties, but it might just be you and two or three other people who are doing every­thing for this new business.”

Beyond pro­viding paid co-​​op posi­tions with alumni ven­tures, North­eastern — this year a new sponsor of Mass­Chal­lenge — and its student-​​run ven­ture accel­er­ator, IDEA, work closely with the non­profit orga­ni­za­tion. This year, three IDEA ven­tures — Akrivis Tech­nolo­gies, Dynamo Microp­ower and Ionu Biosys­tems — are taking part in its com­pet­i­tive summer-​​long startup devel­op­ment pro­gram, which pro­vides work­space, men­toring and sup­port to new com­pa­nies from Mass­a­chu­setts and around the world.

We see a strong cor­re­la­tion between what they’re doing at Mass­Chal­lenge and what we do,” said Chris Wolfel, a senior in the Col­lege of Busi­ness Admin­is­tra­tion and the CEO of IDEA. “We have very sim­ilar models — rooted in col­lab­o­ra­tion and men­tor­ship — and we know that by working closely, we can give our ven­tures as many options as possible.”

The part­ner­ship, part of Northeastern’s new Center for Entre­pre­neur­ship Edu­ca­tion, gives stu­dents the oppor­tu­nity to learn about start-​​ups at the ground level, devel­oping skills they can later use in building their own companies.

Working with Mass­Chal­lenge com­pa­nies gives our stu­dents a fan­tastic oppor­tu­nity to expe­ri­ence early on the thrills and the chal­lenges of building a com­pany and taking a new product to market,” said Esther Chewning, Northeastern’s assis­tant coop­er­a­tive edu­ca­tion fac­ulty coor­di­nator for entre­pre­neur­ship and man­age­ment infor­ma­tion sys­tems. “This co-​​op, cou­pled with a tra­di­tional co-​​op in an estab­lished com­pany, lays a great foun­da­tion for building their own start-​​up companies.”

Hugh Courtney, dean of the Col­lege of Busi­ness Admin­is­tra­tion, explained the impor­tance of the entre­pre­neur­ship co-​​op pro­gram, noting its efforts to expand Northeastern’s cul­ture of entre­pre­neur­ship beyond the classroom.

One of the most impor­tant ways to pre­pare our stu­dents for life beyond the walls of the uni­ver­sity is by putting them to work with busi­nesses and entre­pre­neurs who are doing new exciting things,” Courtney said. “Star­tups pro­vide one of the best oppor­tu­ni­ties for a stu­dent to learn and grow.”