The rise of student startups

If you can’t get a job as a graduate, why not create your own?

In recent years, many graduates have avoided the difficulty of competing in the ever cruel job market by creating their own jobs – through the magic of startups. With the growing appeal of becoming an entrepreneur, and being your own boss, King’s has acknowledged this with the Entrepreneurship Institute, offering support opportunities for King’s students, staff, and alumni in their startup journeys.

Most recently, the institute hosted an event in October, opening with the co-founders of Hackajob, who joined the King’s Pop-Up Incubating Space in March 2015, and have now grown to an international team of fifteen working across a community of 25,000 job seekers and 200 employers. However, what are these startups bringing to the table?

Coming up with an idea might be the easy part, but keeping the company afloat and becoming a success is the struggle.

Since 2004 there’s been a gradual increase in interest in startups, with a sudden spike in 2012, reaching peak popularity in the past two years.

In the current King’s programme, the startups taking part include Cycl (a company that makes LED bicycle direction indicators), WingLights (provide 360-degree visibility in all light and weather conditions), Cancer Calculator (an app to help doctors diagnose cancer), and and Moovr (the Uber for cows) – I, too, am intrigued. Moovr is a social enterprise that puts farmers in developing countries in contact with truck drivers to help them get to market (and no, you’re not the only one that imagined a cow sitting in the back of a car. I also wish this was a thing). These companies, in the early stages of their development, benefit from such university programmes from the financial investments to the mentorship support.

Other universities have adopted similar approaches, including Oxford for instance, which startup company Bibliotech (the Spotify for books) used to achieve financial support through Oxford Innovation. Bibliotech was founded by a former Oxford student, offering a new approach to digital publishing – specifically, textbooks. Its trial was launched with UCL and Oxford, and, now based in London, the service provides students with e-Textbooks related to their courses, and has become relatively well-established, now licensed by publishers like Cambridge University Press, Macmillan Education, and Oxford University Press. This company in particular taps into a market that Steve Jobs recognised as being worth $8 billion – textbooks, which in his words, were ripe for “digital destruction”.

Whilst many student startups rely on crowdfunding and sites like GoFundMe, university entrepreneurship programmes, like King’s Entrepreneurship Institute, provide students with a good standing, as well as increased chances of success in comparison to other startups companies that do not benefit from this type of support. Perhaps these startups can achieve the likes of other companies that sprouted from student entrepreneurs, like Facebook or The Tab.