Additionally, my professors and the incubator program directors have been a great sounding board and resource in growing First Edventures.
Who: Sabrina Palme, co-founder and CEO
Where: Hult International Business School, Class of 2015
Gartenzwerg specialize in creating Personal Smart Gardens, enabling anyone to grow food from their home effortlessly and sustainably. No matter the limitations of time, space, or knowledge, users can connect to the Gartenzwerg app using Internet of Things (IoT) technology and be notified and instructed in real time as to the care required by their plants.
How did the idea for your startup come about?
During my MBA at Hult in China I learned that NASA was using hydroponics in space to grow food without soil. I thought this was amazing and wanted to have something similar for my home as I’m terrible at keeping my plants alive!
After some research, I couldn’t find anything that was easy to use and would fit nicely into my home, so I decided to build one myself. I pitched the idea to Andre, with whom I studied during the MBA—now he’s my founding partner and COO of Gartenzwerg!
How did the MBA help you start your business?
Entrepreneurship is at the core of [Hult’s] values and everything they do.
Entrepreneurial skills and qualities are important for startups and corporations alike as they give you the tools to not only manage but create and innovate. All the courses encourage an entrepreneurial environment and combine theory with praxis.
The Hult Business Challenge is a great example. It is an intense four-month project and part of the one-year program where you can choose between a corporate and an entrepreneurial track.
I picked the entrepreneurial one and for me it was the best learning [experience,] because you get a very good flavor of all the challenges startups face, while being within a safe environment.
Who: Simon Rollings, Chris Bramston
Where: University of Bath School of Management, Class of 2018
Gocerii is a meal delivery service aiming to tackle the problem of food waste among ‘Generation Rent’. With 13 million UK adults now living in shared accommodation, Gocerii offers a flexible alternative to meal-box services and supermarkets that force consumers to buy food individually. The startup offers shared meal planning through recipes that can be personalized according to diet, complete with cost-splitting methods for easy communal eating.
Tell us about your career journeys.
Simon: I worked at multiple startups coming out of the Rocket Internet startup incubator, including Hello Fresh. After that I joined Future, a media company where I headed up the strategy of its ecommerce division.
Chris: I joined Dyson as a graduate in 2012, and moved up through various roles covering digital, product strategy and marketing.
A year before starting the MBA I moved jobs and went to the RAC to oversee upselling to existing members. The ‘theme’ that’s tied my career together is engineering—figuring out how things work, spotting problems, and solving them.
How did the idea for your startup come about?
Simon: Like all good ideas—over a beer! We knew we wanted to do something with food, and originally wanted to focus on personalized nutrition plans. But as we worked through it, we realized we were trying to solve acute problems with an overly generic product.
The answer was staring us in the face: we’d both gone back to being students for the year, and were living in shared accommodation!
Chris: I’d lived in shared accommodation in Bristol for several years so this really made sense to me.
I’d lived with some keen cooks, but we’d only cook together once every couple of weeks. The fridge was always full of ‘too much of something’… There had to be a more efficient way for us to buy exactly what we needed to feed ourselves in the evenings!
Simon: Having worked at Hello Fresh and being a user of multiple different food delivery boxes, I always felt they could be done better.
If you were to have one night where you can’t cook, food goes to waste from the box, so unless you have a really rigid routine these boxes just don’t deliver what they promise. Having shared the boxes with friends in the past, this makes it really difficult to ensure everyone is happy to eat the recipes.
Who: Mehdi El Azhari
Where: Cass Business School, University of London, Class of 2018
Hypercrunch is a social media reputation service for small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs), offering a flat fee per month that covers social media, email marketing, reputation management, website chat-bots, reporting, and even influencer marketing.
How did you get the idea for Hypercrunch?
Since I started at Cass I wanted to start my own company. Initially, I wanted to start my own consulting firm, but when I arrived at the step where I wanted to get some coverage online, I asked, who’s going to handle my social media?
I did some research online, and I found no-one covering the entire scope—social media, email marketing, PR, etc.
Then I went offline to SMEs and startups and asked them, ‘How do you do it?’
Surprisingly, everyone told me ‘Either we do it ourselves or we don’t.’ They weren’t necessarily the people qualified for the task. It was really interesting to see this.
The other option was to hire freelancers—but there’s a lot of uncertainty in this area. And there was no-one in the middle—nobody is targeting the SMEs of today.
How did Cass help you to launch your startup?
Cass has a lot of services and elements that [give] students the drive to start their own companies.
There’s the CitySpark, an incubator for startups where you can have a desk—going there, talking to startups, that kind of environment is really key.
The second thing is that they have a lot of support, in terms of opening up opportunities and networking. You really have an added service to your MBA. It’s all this kind of support that is key when you start.
Who: Daniel Judd, co-founder and CEO; Naicheng Wangyu, co-founder
Where: Stanford Graduate School of Business
When: Class of 2019