According to a recent student life monitoring study, 22% of HSE University students see their future career as entrepreneurs. And thanks to the minor course ‘Start-Up from Scratch’ and the HSE Business Incubator, many of them not only have their own projects, but have made their first sales. Below, they tell us about their progress and the changes the pandemic has made to their lives.
Greenroom Plants, a service that helps people choose houseplants
Our project is a service that provides an individual selection of houseplants. Many people have faced a situation when they buy a plant, and it dies soon after. We are trying to solve this problem.
How do we carry out the selection? A customer who wants to buy a houseplant contacts us. We ask them to tell us what care they are ready to provide, what space they have, what kind of lighting they have, and whether they have small children or pets. Then our team takes all the customer’s preferences into account and chooses a plant that is most suitable to their situation and lifestyle.
I came up with the idea of this start-up after renovating my own apartment. I wanted to decorate my room like the colourful pictures I found on Pinterest, but was put off by the plants in these pictures. I liked the look of them, but didn’t know what they were or how to take care of them.
For me, a houseplant is not simply a decoration. It is a small life and responsibility. Back then, when I had no idea about how to look after the variety of plants from IKEA, I chose a cactus for my bedside table. It is wonderful, but it is not exactly what I wanted. And I thought that it would be great to have someone to help me choose. Today, this is me and my team.
Cloud Design, an online render farm
Rendering means ‘visualization’. This tool is needed by designers who create computer graphics or animation.
Rendering of a single image can take from 20 minutes on very powerful computers to several hours on ordinary ones. The process of generating an image from a model uses all the resources of a computer, it slows down, and until the rendering is finished, your computer is practically unusable.
The idea to create a render farm wasn’t our first one. It all began when last year, my classmates and I lacked enough computer capacity for a high-quality render. This is when we came up with the idea of creating a co-working space with powerful computers, which could be rented for work. But during our studies on the ‘Start-Up from Scratch’ course and looking at the market of co-working areas, our team understood that creating such a space would be a very costly affair. And, more importantly, the return on our investment would take too long.
However, we realised we didn’t need the physical computers, desks, chairs and all those ‘props’. When we looked at the market for render farms in Russia, we understood it was underdeveloped. Then, we decided to create our own online render farm.
Cloud Design saves customers’ time in two ways: it performs rendering remotely, taking the load from the customer’s computer, and does it much faster thanks to the server capacity. That’s why the customer can stop worrying about rendering and continue working on their desktop computer without any delay.
Project ‘Taxifolin Supplements’
We sell a completely natural antioxidant (conservative), which is a healthy food supplement.
In a worsening environment (low-quality food and water, bad ecology, virus and bacterial diseases etc) this supplement helps ensure that people are getting enough daily essential microelements. Consuming food with a taxifolin supplement helps prevent diseases and improve general health. This has been confirmed by long-term clinical studies.
This business idea was suggested by a good friend of mine. I conducted in-depth research of this product, started looking for information, read papers, and found the website of the manufacturing company who we now cooperate with.
The supplement can be used in different fields: food production, agriculture, sports nutrition, and beauty care, although we focus on food products. The main difficulty is that this field is conservative: food manufacturers are not ready to change their recipes to improve product quality as it increases costs. Today, we are negotiating with big food manufacturers, looking at companies, making presentations and offers, and waiting for their feedback.
DivCalendar, an investor’s dividend calendar
Our start-up is a mobile app that helps investors monitor and forecast their dividend and coupon income for the next two years in a convenient format. A year ago, my team and I started investing in shares and bonds on the stock market. Like most investors, we chose a passive strategy of getting dividends from shares and bonds, but faced a problem: there was no place where we could see all our future income. We had to look for the information on different website and compile a spreadsheet in Excel, which took a lot of time and effort.
The business model we have chosen is monthly subscription payment. Our key competitive advantage is a friendly UX/UI design. Thanks to it, we quickly found our first customers and capitalized the app almost immediately after publication. Today, our profit from the project is small, but we are going to do our best to make our product one of the best on the market.
The generation of ideas, the testing of hypotheses, meetings with business people – all of this inspires students to launch their own projects.