Do you have a business idea? Thinking of starting-up whilst you’re still a student? Sam Ryan is one half of the duo who founded JumpIn. In this blog post he explains why you should make the most of being a student and start-up whilst you’re still studying!
In April 2012, I was sat in a bar in Leeds city centre with Barney Williams. We lived three roads apart in Hyde Park, yet we irrationally decided to take two separate cabs to the same destination. It was from here that we decided to explore the possibility of taxi sharing. 18 months on and we’re now the co-founders of JumpIn, a community focussed taxi booking and sharing mobile app purely for students. We’re now looking at gaining national coverage within 6 months and have a non-executive director – something I didn’t even know existed a year ago. Whilst we’re a long way from calling JumpIn a real success and there’s always a chance of failure, I’ve had the most exciting and stimulating year of my life. Many people say starting your own business is risky and call you brave for ‘taking the punt’. This might be true if you’re a 35-year old family man but as a student, everything is in your favour. Take the punt.
Neither Barney nor I had much business experience and we certainly didn’t possess the technical expertise to build an app. After months of research and fighting an uphill struggle to get things moving, we realised we needed to start leveraging our networks. We continuously met with family, friends and friends of friends and we quickly started to build knowledge of how to start a business, the competitors in our field and the opportunities in tech startups. We met with advisors at SPARK and gained both proof of concept funding and were placed in the business plan competition once we got our concept watertight. We took a Startup Loan through the government’s scheme and were provided with 6 months’ free business lounge space and fundamentally, an experienced business mentor who now has been appointed as our non-exec. Lastly, we used LinkedIn to find our Technical Director, James Gupta, who is a Medic at the university. The move to bring technical expertise in house was a game-changer for turning our plans into reality. All of these opportunities and exposure to the world of entrepreneurship showed me that the support for young people starting out is fantastic. Vitally, people are willing to help young people make their way as an entrepreneur. Why don’t more students use this to their advantage?
Founding a startup means it’s all hands on deck. We’ve just started to allocate roles within our business but to date; it’s been a case of all doing whatever, at whatever time, to get things done. Of course this means you’re not always doing glamorous work but it still gets you out of bed in the morning because it’s all work towards your own business. Furthermore, the wide variety of skills this can develop is unrivalled. I remember walking into our first serious meeting with a potential investor in London – I didn’t know the figures, I was flustered and nervous about how it would pan out. Luckily he was quite forgiving! I now walk into meeting fully prepared, agenda in hand and confident in the fact I know JumpIn inside out. This not only is the case with our business, I feel more confident in talking to people generally, understanding them and creating more productive relationships.
I’ve touched on support for young people and the personal development side of starting your own business but why is university the best time to do it? Firstly, you’re still being supported by family and by your student loan. Unless you’re a whizz kid or get lucky, you’re unlikely to make money out our your own business for at least a year. If you haven’t got family or student financing support, living an entrepreneurial lifestyle becomes 10x harder. Secondly, you’re surrounded by bright and talented young people who are enthusiastic and looking for experience. We’ve informally made a policy to only work with other students not because they’re cheap but because they’ve got great ideas and they’re hungry for new opportunities. Lastly, what people tell you about it being difficult to balance your time with your academic work and social life isn’t true – if you’re driven enough, you’ll get up two hours earlier and the pressure motivates you to become more efficient and better organised.
I can’t talk highly enough of how great starting your own business truly is. I’ve got a lot left to learn but for people thinking of ‘taking the punt’, here are 5 pieces of advise I’d give:
- Live by the principle that most people don’t ask, so ask.
- Stay young, stay foolish (if you don’t know what I mean, watch Steve Jobs’ Stanford speech!)
- Read ‘The Lean Startup‘ by Eric Ries
- Leverage your networks, especially SPARK as they are fantastic.
- Stop talking about it and go start it!