Sometimes, from simple ideas can emerge true unexpected businesses. The idea of François Blanc was a very simple idea at the beginning : providing some ideas of start-up through email to students, interested in entrepreneurship. From this simple mailing list, he built Founders Basecamp, the future specialised social network where aspiring entrepreneurs can post their ideas, test it and meet co-founders.
How was Founders Basecamp born ?
Founders basecamp started in a very natural way, from the lectures I’m doing in business schools and engineering schools. These last few year, there was a striking pattern : more and more students were telling me about their willingness to grow up a start-up. But many didn’t know how to start, nor if their ideas were sound. And if you think about it, it’s exactly the opposite for more experienced entrepreneurs. We usually have many ideas, and a good background and expert network to test if they are valid, but little time to develop them all.
So together with a few entrepreneurs’ friends, we decided to build a mailing list where we send a new business idea every week. If some students are interested in one of them, we connect them in a small group and give them around 3 weeks to evaluate and assess the viability of the idea. They then present the project back to us, the Founders Basecamp advisors, so we challenge them, give them feedback, and sometimes help them start one of these projects.
Who are the students ?
They were initially from the business and engineering schools where I’m giving lectures : Ecole des Mines, EM Grenoble in France, or London School of Economics in London. But thanks to our growing network of advisors, we now have access to about fifty schools in 6 countries, mostly in Europe. The even more exciting bits is that we are starting opening bridges with China, for example with CKGSB, a leading school of business founded with the support of Li-Ka- Shing, and with the US as well.
Do the students grow up their start-up after that?
We started Founders Basecamp just a year ago so it’s a bit early to tell. We ran about 15 projects so far. And obviously, even if a group of students think they are onto a great business idea, it’s a very tough decision to drop off in the middle of their curriculum.
Our idea is rather to give the students confidence in their entrepreneurial skills, by making them work on one, two or maybe three projects every year: If they later want to do a start-up, these projects should have given them more confidence in themselves, and some skills to validate their own business ideas. That’s what matter most to us.
Do you teach them how to execute an idea?
Founders Basecamp focuses just at the idea-stage, so we stop before building a product or making sales. The nice thing about working at the idea-stage is that it requires very little commitment : No money, technical skills, nor other resources. Our audience are the aspiring entrepreneurs, who want to test themselves without taking too much risks.
Having said that, if a group of students is ready to go, we can connect them, via our advisor’s network, to low-cost product developers or to start-up studios (who help create MVP and products), or to start-up accelerators across Europe if they are at that stage.
Can the students propose their ideas?
Yes, it happened a couple of times already, and we really love that, it’s a sign of maturity as beginners are usually very protective of their ideas – In such cases, the driver is usually not just to get feedback and make their idea better with likeminded people : It’s about finding potential co-founders. We’ll probably develop Founders Basecamp in this direction in the future, as a specialised social network where aspiring entrepreneurs could post their ideas, and meet co-founders. It’s for example a very common struggle for graduate business students to find a technical co-founders.
What is your business model?
If you think about how we started, it was a very natural continuity of giving lectures about entrepreneurship. We are not setup as a commercial business, we are first and foremost a bunch of entrepreneurs friends who are passionate about helping people to grow. Most of us are angel investors, start-up advisors in accelerators like Techstars or Seedcamp.
There would be multiple ways to make money if we really want to evolve that way. For example, we’ve been approached by a business school in Spain and a university in the Netherland to help them build a Masters about Lean Startup.
Can you describe us an idea of business?
Have a look at our website (http://www.foundersbasecamp.vc) or Facebook group (https://www.facebook.com/foundersbasecamp/), as we post most of them. A recent one was about fixing foreign language learning, at the crossing of digital and face to face learning. This one actually started as a real start-up, incorporated at the end of last year! Another one was about leveraging the growing number of sharing economy “flexible” workers (providing basic employee perks as a service for Uber drivers for example). Last week one is about time management as most people struggle with that.