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The story of three students and a company: StudentUp

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From students to Studentup, Robin Salimans, Ronan Liedmeier and Ramses Kamanda passed by the Scope office to tell us a bit more about their entrepreneurial journey.

Freshly graduated from their Bachelor in Maastricht University, they shared some insights on the challenges of combining student life with setting up a business, the importance of mentors and the benefits of failure.

A few weeks ago, Robin Salimans, Ronan Liedmeier and Ramses Kamanda passed by the Scope office to tell us a bit more about their entrepreneurial journey: Studentup.

Freshly graduated from their Bachelor in Maastricht University, they are now entirely dedicated to make their own start-up successful. Inspired by Elon Musk and Steven Bartlett, they are eager to build a dynamic and original company culture.

They spent some time in California, exploring the insights of the Silicon Valley, namely the functioning of the incredible growth ecosystem for start-ups and are now back in the Netherlands.

In the following interview, the Studentup team shared some of their experiences.

How did you come up with the business idea?

In the Entrepreneurship and Small Business Management course, there was a start-up assignment. You basically had to come up with a business idea with your team and pitch it for the class. We then came up with Studentup. We were already entrepreneurs at that time and thought of how to give support to other ambitious and creative people. We wanted to boost entrepreneurship among students, as we felt a lack of support for student projects here in Europe.

Everyone loved our pitch, which gave us the motivation to further develop the idea.

Can you briefly explain your idea?

It is a platform for student entrepreneurship. You can see it as a social media that helps you to set up a business or join another start-up. 1 in 2 university students either want to found a start-up or work for one. However, there is no platform out there which helps students to get their projects off the ground or find the perfect start-up to be involved in.

With the help of Artificial Intelligence, the app matches young start-ups with people on campus that are willing to work on projects next to their studies.

We essentially want to make the start-up world accessible to every student.

Was it easy to form your team?

(all three laughed) Not really. Ronan and I (Robin) first worked on writing the business plan, which took one full week. We then needed someone to build the app and that was not a piece of cake. It took us 6 months! The Data Science and Knowledge Engineering faculty (DKE) is not really linked to the SBE. We had to spam all our contacts and WhatsApp groups asking if they knew someone. We also approached people via LinkedIn. We then found 5 potential app developers that turned out not to be the right fit before we found Ramses.
We are now 3 full time workers but we also have 6/7 people working as interns that love what we do and wanted to be part of the adventure.

We also now have four advisors: a serial entrepreneur co-owning 17 start-ups by now, a president of a University in Germany, a strategy consultant and a professor from UC Berkley.

Advisors are really helpful when starting your own business. Especially as a student. When you first start, you never know what you are doing so we strongly advice anyone to build a strong advisory network. You receive advice from people more experienced than you, but you also gain in credibility for external stakeholders. If people they believe in your project, you are more likely to attract investors. One of our advisors even brought us to a Google summit for a three-day workshop to learn how to pitch properly where we also met multiple investors.

This is a crucial part of our app: simplifying the process of finding your team, advisors and investors via one single platform.

How did university support you during the process?

First of all, without the Entrepreneurship course, we might not have found the idea. What also fosters this entrepreneurship culture is the tutorial system. You get the chance to meet a lot of smart people, make new friends and potentially meet your future co-founders. At least that is how Robin and I (Ronan) met.

Maastricht University helped us a lot with the critical thinking, to use background information to solve a problem together. This collaborative spirit is what you need in a start-up team and PBL trains you to work in that way. This spirit is also omnipresent in the Silicon Valley. In comparison, Europe has a lot to learn to build the adequate eco-system to boost the creation of start-ups.

We believe that Studentup is a great match with the teaching system of university to lower the entry barriers for students willing to build their start-up.

If you could give advice to students with an idea, what would it be?

Just go for it. You will learn while doing so do not be afraid of starting. Find the right people, build a team. Alone you will probably not make it as then all the energy to run the business comes from one person. When you sometimes have a dip, your teammates can either cheer you up, or simply take over your tasks.

You also should not get discouraged too fast. You sometimes do not directly see the results or progress you expected but you need to keep pushing through. Think about Amazon: they also struggled to get their company off the ground and are now one of the largest retailers in the world. And again, you will need a team for that.

Do not be afraid of failure, would be our last tip. Failure is good. It can seem scary but the only thing you get to loose is money. You would be amazed by how much you learn from an unsuccessful experience. All of us had a start-up before Studentup, and they all failed! We simply tried to be as critical as possible to not do the same mistake twice, identify what went wrong and what went well to grow as a person and develop new skills. It also helps for your employability. The recruiter will see the ambition of building something big, that you are creative and willing to take risk. They appreciate people that go through with their ideas. During my bachelor, I (Ronan) was an average student, but if Studentup turns out to be unsuccessful, I have little worries about finding another job.