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Becoming an entrepreneur may start with a great idea, but there’s a lot more to it than that. Global bachelor degree students Carolina Lopez Gonzalez and Dariya Yeryomenko had never been involved in entrepreneurship before arriving on campus at Les Roches Switzerland. This semester, they began to study innovation and entrepreneurship with faculty member Dr. Sanjay Chib. As part of their course, they participated in February’s entrepreneurship Launchpad organized by startup accelerator Seedstars. We asked them how they developed their new business concept and what they have learned about being an entrepreneur.
To prepare for Seedstars’ visit on campus, Dr. Chib asked his students to brainstorm ideas for potential businesses. Dariya, Carolina and fellow classmate Gabriel Pascucci worked together as a team to come up with ideas. Dariya suggested creating a product based on virtual reality, noting that innovative hotels like Marriott have already begun integrating the technology into customer experiences.
The three then turned to their past experiences, including internships, to develop this idea further. For Carolina, inspiration came from her previous sales internship at the W Barcelona. “I saw event organizers come from the UK and spend a whole week traveling from hotel to hotel, visiting as many destinations as possible to find the right venue.” So, she thought: Wouldn’t it be easier if organizers could virtually visit different locations, without having to travel anywhere?
At the Seedstars Launchpad, Carolina, Dariya and Gabriel pitched an idea for a platform that would let conference organizers experience hotels in virtual reality. Meanwhile, Seedstars offered plenty of advice along the way.
“What Seedstars provided us with was a plan — they explained to us step by step what you need to do to plan a business and bring it to life,” said Dariya. “For me, the most important piece of advice was to check your marketplace. Before you even work on your business plan, pretend the product already exists and ask potential customers: Are you willing to pay for this?”
Carolina added, “When we presented our idea, [Seedstars CEO] Alisée de Tonnac was very critical and straight to the point. She asked us how we would be profitable, and how we could make it better. I really appreciated this because it helped us understand how to improve our idea.”
Out of 14 student teams, Dariya, Carolina and Gabriel won the award for “Best Startup” at the Seedstars Launchpad. But that didn’t mean that their project was over. “During the Launchpad, we only gave a one-minute pitch. Since then, we have worked on a three-minute video pitch for Dr. Chib. This time, we had to go into more detail, considering costs, technological feasibility and locations,” Carolina explained.
“We have been working on this progressively from having a simple idea to creating an actual business plan and conducting a feasibility study. By the end of the semester, we will have prepared a 30-minute business pitch for real investors”
added Dariya. “This wasn’t your typical ‘school’ project — you have to treat it as something real. Studying finance, for example, you might do exercises without seeing real-life application. With this project, we had to consider real costs, how to attract investors, the break-even point, profitability… The whole process gives you insight into how this could really work.”
For both Dariya and Carolina, this semester has opened their minds to new possibilities. “I always knew I wanted to start a business, and this experience has reinforced that idea. No I know more about what to expect — and how to make it happen,” said Carolina. Dariya agreed. “This semester has shown us that entrepreneurship is doable. You don’t need to be a genius — you just need to work hard and follow the right steps.”
Interested in learning more about entrepreneurship? The annual Seedstars Summit, in which innovative startups from around the world will compete to win up to $1.5 million in funding, takes place in Lausanne, Switzerland on 6 April, 2017. It’s not too late to buy tickets — or to try and get a spot as a volunteer!
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