Friends since freshman year and both entrepreneurially-minded, Eric Gonzalez, ’21, and Rider Tuff, ’21, are always bouncing ideas off one another. The duo knows where their interests and strengths align, and for the past few months had been in development on uTask, a platform that paired students with short-term, project-based work during the academic year at Richmond-based organizations.

Like many, their plans shifted when COVID-19 hit, and students did not return to campus after spring break. “We saw our friends lose internship opportunities due to economic concerns and travel restrictions, and realized we could help,” said Tuff. However, they recognized a pressing need to expand the geographic reach and time frame of their original venture.

They quickly pivoted their business model and rebranded to Leva, a platform on which students can connect with internship opportunities at high-growth startups, enabling individuals and organizations to elevate their businesses, careers, and education.

Leveraging the Richmond Guarantee, Gonzalez and Tuff used LinkedIn to connect with University of Richmond alumni who were involved with small to mid-sized start-ups. “We sent hundreds of messages and received great feedback,” said Tuff. “Eric and I had meetings with each organization and learned a lot about these really cool alumni-founded companies.” They largely relied on word of mouth to reach Richmond students, and within the first few days had a flood of new users on the platform. 

“Our friends’ gratitude for helping them in a really tough spot—providing the means to gain an experience that they otherwise wouldn’t have had—makes it all worth it,” said Gonzalez, who is also interning at an early-stage startup for the summer. “Working with a startup allows you to have an impact right off the bat. Leadership is open to hearing your voice and ideas, which made me want to work hard and make the most out of my experience.”

Tuff also found a position through Leva, working with a Seattle-based organization. “The smaller team in a start-up allows you to work cross-functionally,” he shared. “I am now gaining experience with the sales, marketing, and operations teams which blends real-world experience with my coursework. It is a daily extension of my classes.”

With plans to continue building their network of students and start-ups, the founders look forward to offering internship opportunities year-round. “Having an internship during the school year allowed me to apply what I was learning directly to my position the following day,” Gonzalez said. “Students typically hold one internship during the summer. With Leva, you could work with up to three companies a year based on placement.”

Leva successfully matched 35 students with 27 companies this past spring, many whose planned internship experience had been disrupted by the pandemic, including Carson Beckett, ’21. Beckett’s summer internship fell through, but he didn’t want to miss an important time to gain experience. He joined the Leva network and accepted a position with GiveTide, a mobile-charitable platform co-founded by a 2016 Richmond alumnus.

“I was in a really tough spot when quarantine began, and Leva helped me find a way through. I am working on a data analytics project breaking down users of the app and monitoring behavior. It has been a really fun ride,” Beckett shared. 

As Gonzalez and Tuff look toward the coming academic year, they hope to continue building connections with student organizations, corporate partners, the UR community, and beyond. “We want to help Richmond students get noticed for their intelligence and impact, and we are excited to see how Leva can facilitate those relationships,” Tuff said.

To find out more about Leva, join their mailing list.