We are a student media promoting entrepreneurship on Lausanne Campuses. We foster multidisciplinary entrepreneurship through interviews and report of selected events. We rarely shed a light on ourselves. For the first time, we uncover our uncommon story, our challenges, and lessons learned we wish you all knew. Here they are!
Switzerland, back to 2014
Our story began in September 2014 with Paul Courtaud, a young entrepreneur who started his first business at seventeen. Paul was at this time nineteen and in second year of economics studies at Lausanne’s University. Paul was surprised that so few people were driven by the need to mount projects from the ground. He quickly met his new flatmate, Gregoire, and his friend, Raphael, which were both studying life sciences at the EPFL, the nearby university.
Back in time, the European startup craze was just starting. Like all projects, hours of discussions, many beers, and tonnes of post-its draw the first line of what would become Innovation Time. For students, by students. To help students projects shine. To show them how to believe in unconventional paths and their instincts.
Uncommon stories, challenges
Fast-forward to first 2015 recruitments: a student spot an internet journalist job and thought he could be paid for doing so. His name is Pierre, and against all odds, he decided to join for free. He will become the future President of the association. In late 2015, Innovation Time’s team – made of eight students – started offering croissants and coffee, inviting all students for the evening recruitment. Only two students assisted the meeting, and none of them joined in. Like all uncommon stories, things added up: there’s the actual vice-president who at the time thought he could win an m&m’s jar and left his email to the association before even knowing what it was about. There’s a contract signed with Seedstars before any member knew how to properly mount a video. There’s the after-exam period when the association went from fifteen to three people. And these three people weren’t even part of the previous committee, and therefore had no idea how to run an entire association. There’s also a story about a bank account that went below zero and an association that runs on the president’s money. There’s the website, attacked by Russian, Chinese and even North-Korean IP computers. Had the founder not believed in his association and had the free journalist and the m&m’s student not partaken in the adventure, who knows what might have happened.
Parallel to its beginnings, the association spots a particular missing link between students and investors. While incubators, accelerators and startups challenges are numerous, the association orients itself into a pure, local media. The members participate in many events, contact associations, meet dozens of young entrepreneurs, and write, again and again. The members accept events and invitations before even knowing if they have class the same day. Whatever their background, they are asked to write about start-ups and entrepreneurs and they publish more than 120 articles in less than 2 years. They are asked to write true stories and to not go into the mainstream trap. They build partnerships based on trust with recognized associations and medias, and reconduct partnerships one after the other. The team, which faced many challenges, overcame each one of them: now expanding to arts campuses and profiles, the members are experienced and know their field. Once again, they are ready for the next Summit and eager to discover the most promising start-ups in emerging markets.
The lessons learned and what we wish you knew
Through all the articles and interviews, many patterns appeared: the team spots the ones driven by passion and process in comparison to the ones driven by money and goal. As Innovation Time’s members realised that the firsts are the ones that make all projects and the association last, they also noticed the tremendous change of technology in only three years of existence: the shift toward more green and sustainable infrastructures is a fact that can’t be denied anymore. The way technologies – from 3D printing to batteries and solar energy – are taught at University includes constantly the fuel-to-electric change and renewable energies use. What is more striking is the now significant mass media influence. In such a context, startups not mentioning their contribution to a more green and human future in mass medias are disabled startups. The entrepreneurship spirit is now interpreted as a cliché from many and constitutes a new challenge for upcoming startups.
At the same time, the digitalization of startups, which was mainly concerning final products three years ago, has now expanded to internal communication. As of now, it is hard to find a European team – associative or startup – that doesn’t know or use slack-like softwares. The reorganisation of the hierarchy promotes transparency, and, ironically, there is in each team a channel called “random” or “beers”, suggesting that all others channels shouldn’t be. The need to appear like a perfect structure is predominant and communication’s intensity is becoming overwhelming for entrepreneurs.
The coding ability, which was before an asset, is now an essential toolkit for any entrepreneur. We met several people who suggested how easy it was to find a coder. But on the field, we met an entrepreneur who was forced to outsource his app because of a lack of coding capabilities. He ate pasta during weeks and paid thousands of CHF (approx. same as US $) to receive an insufficient website prototype. As an opposite story, we encountered a team of two brothers, one coder and one seller. While the first one was developing the app, the second could provide rapid feedback to sell their products more efficiently. The insourcing and relationship of the team really impressed us, as the first could make the exact modifications suggested by the second. What was impressive was the speed at which they could improve their app and adapt it to their goals. The app was only a part of their service, and they transformed a basic tool into an asset tool. There is definitely a strong need for us to insource the code as much as possible by having a close relationship with programmers. At the moment, we do not see another combination to maximise chances of obtaining a good and fast-made product.
Internet and phones are on their way to becoming the most basic European entrepreneurs’ starting tools. The smartphones, which were not essentials to European students three years ago, are now at the centre of our attention. Education, such as in Switzerland, is orienting itself towards multidisciplinary teams combining economy, technical and art students. Projects merging these three fields are appearing and young generations are now trained to create their own technology with the intensive use of smartphones and internet of things concepts.
The Swiss Federal Institute of Technology (Lausanne, EPFL) will open a Master of Science and Digital Humanities. Combining data sciences and social sciences, the formation proposes to manage all the steps of the data processing, from the collect to the interpretation, from algorithm choice and databases to archives’ maintenance. A new generation of entrepreneurs, born in a digital era, with the ability to work remotely, is slowly appearing. Born after 1995, driven by an extensive smartphone use, a big data and machine learning knowledge, they seem to not seize the boundaries of what AI would provide in the years to come, and the problems it will help to solve. At Innovation Time, we bet AI will be the next thing, and we can’t wait to see what the future will be with this new generation. And you?
– Arthur Baetens, March 2017
Last modified: 23 November 2017