Team SaaSEAD’s interview with Marnix Broer, Co-founder of Studocu – a platform for students to find the study resources shared by their fellow students. By just typing the name of their university, students can access summaries of books, past exams, and tons of lecture notes.
The idea of a student note-sharing platform was born, perhaps unsurprisingly, in a fraternity while Marnix was finishing his 4th year at Delft University of Technology. Since the beginning, the platform was kept as simple as possible. “Even our first advertising was through silly jokes flyers that really caught attention. We had friends from other cities asking us if we could include their universities on StudeerSnel.nl (StudeerSnel is the Studocu equivalent in the Netherland)”.
Click here to check out one of StuDocu’s adverts.
How does the access mechanism work? 80% of the documents are available for free. For students to get access to the Premium 20% a small fees has to be paid.
During the early stages
“You don’t want to create a company that just runs on investments”. Since introducing the 20% Premium model, increasing their student base, and expanding from one university to the next, StuDocu started making a profit. This gave them an edge with investors as they were not desperate for money and would not accept any offer.
Currently, investments are still needed to expand to more universities (the plan is to cover 850 universities in Europe, America & Australia). A lot of these universities are seen as a no man’s land, and that’s where StuDocu swiftly enters the market and starts including these universities on its platform. “I don’t see other student sharing platforms as competitors, we grow 20 university a day, while they grow 10 universities a year”.
Some start-ups in the student sharing arena are very eager to become cash-cows fast, this is typically achieved through making costly subscriptions and locking up most of the content. However, when aiming for that they typically miss 2 main points. First, this model only helps rich students get the documents needed rather than helping all the students gain access to information. Second, it might be more profitable if you do not focus on profit, but rather on the service or product provided. In the case of StuDocu, profits follow the product. The Company has been able to scale faster than many of its competitors by incentivizing uploaders rather than charging consumers with social features and access for upload practices.
Also, when entering the start-up scene straight out of university, it is challenging to become a leader and a manager with no experience. A lot of time was invested (sometimes with help of coaches) into leadership practices.
With a founding team of 4, decisions rely more on Data than opinion – as otherwise a stalemate of opinion is easy to get stuck in. Any decision taken is answered by “What does the data say”. In Marnix’s point of view, the bigger the founding team the better, as more people are parents to the start-up. In that way, you do not have to outsource anything at the beginning, which makes it a lot easier and faster to build a perfect product.
4 or any even number in partners is like a double-edged sword (since 2 founders can agree and the other 2 can disagree). Decisions are made based on a lot of research and data to support it, downside is however that it makes the decision process slower.
“Many still describe StuDocu as a ‘student’ company”, says Marnix. Despite their rapid growth, the organization has been able to maintain a work hard, play hard mentality and a creative mindset that typifies the Delft student. This was not hard to believe as the office has disco balls, smoke machines, and LED lights everywhere. The office space is unique as every piece of furniture is built by the founders and employees in typical Delft attitude. For a sneak speak check out the following video: