Why is it that some the most game-changing businesses to be developed over the last 25 years have come out of university campuses?
It can’t be that only students have great ideas, or that entrepreneurs at university have unique access to capital, equipment and skills. After all you don’t stop having great ideas when you leave university, and it’s not like students are rolling around in cash for every business idea they want to try out.
But what is the one thing that students have a greater resource of than any other group. Their network. Students across university campuses have large, highly connected and active networks of other students. This means that for entrepreneurs building businesses relying on network effects for growth, university offers a unique opportunity to scale quickly across student communities. This early growth can be lightning quick and offer entrepreneurs just the sort of momentum and learnings that they need to keep their faint dream to change the world alive.
That is why the largest networks of them all, Google and Facebook, began life on US campuses and why you see big brands spending millions to engage student communities.
That is also why we at Huru are focussing on helping make the strongest student network experience, that of “housemates”, the corner stone of our business. We are focused on making the experience of being housemates, the best experience we can.
So, if you are an entrepreneur at university today, seize the opportunity and recognise the greatest resource you have available to you – your immediate network of fellow students.
Why is this student network important?
Building high growth businesses rely on two key steps; 1) Rapid learning and iteration early in your product development and 2) A high viral growth coefficient.
Both of these require a network of early adopters for whom your product is not just interesting but something they want to engage with to the point of telling you everything they think about it. Entrepreneurs often think about these customers in terms of the first 100.
For your first 100 customers, you want to understand everything you can about why they signed up to your service, what motivated them to try it out, how they used it and why they would/wouldn’t use it again. Y-combinator have an excellent phrase for this tactic, “Do things that don’t scale”. The idea is to give your first 100 customers a completely unscalable and highly concierge service, which allows you to rapidly learn about your customers and improve your product.
The student community offers entrepreneurs an amazing opportunity to identify and engage with early adopters. Students are often perfect early adopters, who are willing to try new services and very open to providing feedback.
Early growth in a business is often the lifeline that an entrepreneur needs in order to raise investment and start building out their product to profitability. Getting growth with limited resources means you need to acquire customers at very low costs. You don’t have the budget to be buying paid search advertising or hiring any sales guys. But you do have a phone book of 100 contacts, a Facebook network of 1000 friends and an extended student community who you are connected with. This network cares about what you do and are always going to give you the time of day if you ask them to try something out. So, beg, borrow and steal your early users. Then get each new user to recommend at least one other and you’ll soon be at high growth levels from a low base at very low cost.
It is your own personal network and the strong networks that each new user brings with them, that is the greatest opportunity you have as a student entrepreneur. Salesman used to have to go to markets and stand on street corners to sell their goods. Today, you have a huge market of potential customers at your fingertips and what is more, they are connected to you. They are your friends and people with whom you share something in common. They trust you and it is that trust that puts you in such a privileged position.
So, don’t hold back. Go out and seize the moment. If your friends won’t use your product, then it’s unlikely many others will. If you can quickly get your extended network to try it out, you could well be on to something!!
Huru is the easiest way for students to quickly set up all of their homes utility bills under one account, get great deals for their utility bills, and have their bills split equally between housemates. Huru was founded in May 2016 by students, for students, and has grown from strength to strength launching partnerships with leading UK energy and internet brands. For more information, please click on https://www.gethuru.com/blog/