Interview by UtrechtInc
Since September 2014 the two young founders William Viveen and Ronald Kouvelt are working in the accelerator program at UtrechtInc. This interview with Ronald looks back at the year of successful growth for their company StuComm. “We have worked really hard and are preparing to take the business international.”
Do you still remember the moment when you both decided to set up StuComm?
William and I have known each other for 26 years. While I was a student, I realized that nearly every student had IT problems when it came to finding key study-related information. I had a solution for a widely experienced problem. Back then I was living with IT students. In conversations with them I realized that my plans were unrealistic. A fully centralized study information service at a central place, that could only exist in a dream. This triggered me. Later on William and I were raising our glasses to our new adventure. William is a jack-of-all-trades in technology and helped define my idea with his discerning vision. We found an opportunity in the market of which we could make a success.
Why did you decide then to sign up for UtrechtInc?
We were looking for someone who didn’t only offer good facilities, but also a network and knowledge transfer. William and I stepped into the world of startups and still didn’t know very much about the Lean Startup methodology, for example. StuComm wanted to learn these things quickly so we could set up our business in a smart way. Already we could immediately sit together with experts and discuss our business model. That was really great. Beyond that we knew that UtrechtInc has inroads with knowledge institutions, these relevant to us as potential launching customers.
What was the most important thing you learned in the first few months?
Focus! With all of our enthusiasm we saw so many opportunities. We didn’t know where to begin. We arrived with a broad idea and UtrechtInc taught us to focus on that for which there is a market. Without asking critical questions you don’t work effectively towards a goal. In the beginning you’re only the two of you. To make progress it’s of course essential that you’re both working on the right thing. In the program you learn to develop this focus and concentrate on developing your product, your value proposition and your business model.
How do you pitch StuComm these days?
StuComm is a service provider for education and helps schools to inform students sufficiently and in a timely manner using an app for students. Students only need to login in once and they find the information from all platforms in one place.
What kind of impact does StuComm have on education?
Schools and universities now for the first time have a tool to be able to reach their students directly. StuComm offers intuitive automatization to provide study-related information to students and is fully measurable (conversion).
How did you guys win your launching customer?
We started out with cold acquisition. Often we first need to figure out who we need to talk to exactly. Once our network in education was beefed up, I asked the decision makers if they had time to put their heads together with me. By first asking for feedback instead of directly trying to sell something, it took me less time to get to the table with them. During the meetings, the most important thing was being a good listener. This way the information you get can be used to find starting points and to revamp or pivot your solution.
How did you find other customers after that?
Our slogan is: “Get shit done”. We aim to be good at what we believe and what we do. At StuComm I focus on sales and am aware of the fact that the other side of the table is not waiting around to hear my story. Forcing the customer to do something he doesn’t want to do isn’t worth it. Therefore the pattern must be: listen, sell, make. After we landed our launching customer we made a list of ABC customers,or big, medium and small potential customers. This to avoid being dependent on any one of them. Next was to decide from among each segment which potential customers to contact and which educational institutions were ready and for our innovation and would bite on our line. For the first point of contact, I mostly used LinkedIn.
What are the pinnacle moments for StuComm in 2015 up until today?
- We worked intensively as a team for Demoday at Startup Bootcamp to leave a long-lasting impression.
- With pride we welcomed TU Delft into our circle of customers.
- In only 4 days we activated 10.000 users for our customer InHolland.
To what do you attribute last year’s major growth?
Within the team there’s a culture of proving yourself. We all want to show that we’re the best at what we do. This means that we go that extra mile to succeed. Next to that, since the beginning we’ve organised sales well, which is now leading to good results.
How do you make sure your team keeps challenging themselves?
William and I think it’s important that everybody in the team gets their own responsibility. This way we allow for freedom to move around in your own role and to shine. Or to share knowledge and train teammates. We are fully transparent about goals and our profit and stimulate an open culture where questions can and must be asked. Also we often find the time to celebrate our successes together. With a big bottle of Champagne, cake, photos or a trip abroad.
What do you do when you’re in doubt?
Making difficult decisions still isn’t easy, but you can’t do anything worse than just waiting. William and I would rather choose to decide on and explore the best option.
Where will StuComm be in 5 years?
In five years we will have grown to be an international player. StuComm will be represented in at least 3 countries and will have a strong team of at least 30 ambitious employees. My role? I’ll stay doing sales. That’s what I like best and I’m also good at it ;-)
What tips do you have for our current UtrechtInc startups?
Get out of the building, because everything happens outside. Inside you’re not finding out about the needs of your customer. Continue to focus on finding the right combination of product and market. Continue to pivot until you exactly understand why people want to buy your product or service. And join in with the weekly networking drink on Thursday. You’ll strike up discussions with more experienced entrepreneurs who probably have genuinely useful advice. Besides that it’s always really a good time!
Read the original article here: https://www.utrechtinc.nl/en/b...