The coronavirus, accompanied by social distancing restrictions concerning our movement and the sharing of public spaces, introduced us to a few challenges but thankfully digitalization made it possible for us to continue with our programme as usual. In March, we completed another edition of the Erasmus Startup Programme and we can glance back at yet another successful (digital) edition.
One of our participants, Maria Adao, was working on her project already when she realized that she needed more help. With a bit of online searching, she was able to find our Erasmus Startup Programme. ‘Marie Elyst is the service that provides fitting room real-time guidance anywhere, anytime, for those who are lost in choices when shopping and want to make a quick and conscious decision,’ said Maria. According to her, when trying to create a startup, one can easily get lost on the internet while trying to find relevant and helpful information. ‘The Erasmus Startup Programme provided me with a very structural step-by-step approach. I was able to apply the exercises and information immediately which helped me comprehend each subject matter. I had anticipated that my idea would change during the course, but that was necessary.’
Another participant, Floris de Laat, already had a prototype and had done pre-tests by the time he had joined the Erasmus Startup Programme. His startup, Mr. Berry’s, is a data-driven coffee brand that uses real-time customer feedback to make the perfect coffee by optimizing around their preferences instead of available shelf space. ‘It’s the perfect harmony between coffee, technology and customers,’ said founder Floris de Laat. ‘My idea, therefore, did not change during the course because I had already obtained more specific knowledge about my clientbase. However, the programme did make me realize that your clientbase is never static and you never have one specific type of client. It is important to constantly research who your clients are.’
Unfortunately, the coronavirus has taken its toll on the economy but luckily, the entrepreneurs from our Erasmus Startup Programme see these challenging times as opportunities for their startups. ‘Approximately eight years ago, a major shift started to happen in the world in which consumers are showing a changed behaviour towards fashion. The coronavirus has accelerated this shift and it has highlighted the over-consumerism on a global scale. Since it helps people make conscious decisions, my app is needed sooner than expected and should be launched this year,’ said Maria.
Floris de Laat, likewise, experiences the corona-crisis as a positive push for his startup. ‘My model has become more relevant because it functions solely online. Even though communication with investors has slowed down, I perceive it as the perfect opportunity for companies to focus on what is important and can truly make an impact. Especially for e-commerce, a lot of chances have opened up to acknowledge both the opportunities and pitfalls. This is the perfect time to focus on them and prepare for them.’
Digitalization enabled us to continue the Erasmus Startup Programme in a safe way and while the real-life interaction was dearly missed, it did not harm any progress for the alumni. ‘Digital interactions were provided as much as possible which helped generate more ideas. We even joked during one of the sessions that we should not speak of a “Corona-crisis” but a “Co-opportunity”,’ said Maria. Floris appreciated the sparring-sessions in groups of three people, which accumulated more helpful insights. ‘The Programme helped me expand my network and enabled me to be surrounded by like-minded people, which was very fruitful,’ said Floris.
Lastly, Floris highlights the importance of testing your product or service to be able to offer more than just an idea to a potential investor. ‘It is beneficial to invest a lot of time into this phase in order to enlarge your chances of obtaining an investor.’ Maria advises starting entrepreneurs to trust themselves and simply to start doing. ‘Fear is when we don’t know and we don’t trust. You need to trust yourself and your own capabilities. The things you don’t know? You will find out along the way. As long as you start today.’