On January 26, young entrepreneurs from several Moscow-based universities spoke before a huge stadium of visitors and business experts at Megasport Sports Palace. HSE University students talked with HSE News Service about their projects and what it was like to participate in the festival.
Everyone’s story is different: one of the participants decided to start their business when they were still in high school; others came up with their ideas while taking classes for the ‘Start-Up from Scratch’ minor, and others got their inspiration while participating in the HSE Business Incubator.
After the long path from hypothesis testing to first sales, participants presented their projects before well-known experts Eduard Gurinovich, co-founder of CarPrice, and Mikhail Kuchment, co-owner of the home furnishing hypermarket chain, Hoff.
Student, MIEM HSE, Applied Mathematics
We are building an online exam-prep platform for people taking the USE (Unified State Examination). This is a competitive but very promising field. We’ve noticed that our competitors offer separate products (such as tutors, career guidance, or a focus on specific subjects), but there is no integrated platform that helps students prepare for the exam.
Our goal is to be able to provide our clients a contractual guarantee stipulating that in four months, they will get a minimum score of 80 points on the exam if they follow all of the recommendations. If they do not get this minimum score on the exam, we will return their money.
Our service includes several parts: webinars (primarily taught by HSE University faculty members), a platform with personalized homework assignments, and group assignments.
Alumnus, Bachelor’s Programme in Economics & Statistics, Master’s Programme in Governance of Science, Technology and Innovation
I’ve created a chat bot with a therapist, who provides online help in solving various issues at work, such as difficulties in career advancement, work-life balance, and communicating with the management, colleagues and contractors. For office employees, this is a convenient way to get professional help right at the workplace, without letting stress build up or burning out altogether.
Our target audience is urban white collar workers aged 23 to 35. They care about their mental health and are ready to invest in it. There are products similar to our app on international markets, and they get active investment, while in Russia, this niche has yet to be filled.
During the pitch sessions at the ‘Open Mic’ spaces, successful entrepreneurs shared tips about what soft skills you need in business, how to find your niche and enter the international market, and what marginality, purchase funnel, target audience, and benchmarking are.
During the day, there were celebrity battles on the big stage: celebrities such as Tina Kandelaki, Sergey Shnurov, Ekaterina Varnava, and Vladimir Perelman shared their success stories and discussed what is more important: creativity or calculation, mass appeal or uniqueness, personal brand or company brand, or having a unique formula or an effective team.
Student, Business Informatics
At the festival, I presented a language practice platform I developed called LangHouse. We launched just recently, in November 2019, but have already managed to hold a number of events where we saw that the demand for language learning tools is high.
So far we have a group on VK and a profile on Instagram, where we organize marathons in which school and university students join in teams and complete interesting assignments, while mentors supervise them and explain the topics that are unclear.
We also organize two types of offline meetings: a language club and topical TED Talks (for example, next Sunday we will be talking about self-confidence). Usually, my colleague and I conduct a small workshop in the beginning, then the participants make their presentations, and in the end, we review our errors while having tea and cookies. The meetings usually take place at cafes and co-working areas. The first meeting is always free.
Student, Advertising and PR
I’m representing Ballery, a start-up where we make balloon decorations for various events: weddings, birthday parties, exhibitions, shop openings etc. What we make are not regular decorations, but contemporary aerodesign, and this field is not yet very well developed in Russia. Each decoration is unique and is individually designed for each event.
I moved here from Latvia, where my sister had a similar business, so when I was looking for a niche, I started out at what I already know how to do. But in addition to my initial skills and an understanding of how to promote the project, I learned how to use a lot of tools while minoring in ‘Start-Up from Scratch’ at HSE, where we had very good mentors.