Deqian is a third year Physics and Philosophy student from Somerville College. He is a cofounder at Schema and takes charge of design and product development. Schema is a web-based note taking application. Unlike many other note taking tools, Schema is specifically designed with students’ learning needs in mind, based on the extensive survey conducted by the team on how students study. It allows students to write notes in collapsible bullets and integrate resources to their notes so they can make more structured notes and never lose any learning materials.
The team has built an MVP and launched in Oxford in early October. To date, Schema has acquired more than 550 users and its user number has been growing more than 30% every week since the launch. Schema has been receiving overwhelmingly positive feedback from the students and many students are using it daily to make notes. The founding team has three members and there is also a number of volunteers from various college helping to market the product. The team is currently working on promoting the product at Oxford and getting ready to pitch for the first round of funding.
I am a physicist and philosopher by academic training. In terms of business involvements, I have a diverse background: I have experiences working with companies and organisations of various sizes and across different sectors, from digital development consultancy in London to climate research institute in Brazil. The experience of living in three different countries also gives me a good understanding of entrepreneurship across different cultures. My interest in entrepreneurship started early on. Since my high school, I have been actively participating in product design and related activities.
My interest in entrepreneurship grew naturally as I mused over how to design better products and how to bring them to the market to benefit more people. I see entrepreneurship as a way to amplify the impacts of well-designed products and to bring positive changes to people’s lives. On top of the ability to make impacts, good fit for the role is another important consideration of my decision to become an entrepreneur. I have experiences doing consulting and working with several startups. I enjoy the flexible working schedule and the energetic culture. On the other hand, I don’t enjoy so much repetitive and monotonous jobs. The challenges being an entrepreneur brings keep me intellectually stimulated and motivated.
In my understanding, entrepreneurs synergise human and capital resources to bring positive changes to the society. It is about identifying the right resources at the right time and skilfully combining them to maximally amplify the positive impacts.
It took us roughly about four months to develop and validate the idea before we finally decided to develop it.
1. A clear understanding of the value the product is bringing to customers
2. The value proposition is reflected in product feature set and backed up with user studies
3. The idea as a business has potential (revenue streams, competition, market size etc.)
4. A clear execution plan.
Hard work – Things do not happen automatically in the business world, there always need to be input for there to be output. As an entrepreneur, one has to work extra hard to get things off the ground.
Confidence – Entrepreneurs need to be optimistic about the future and they have to firmly believe in themselves to persevere through tough times. More importantly, they will have to trust their judgment since there will many be competing advice from different people and founders have to decide for themselves what’s the best option.
Compassion – The most valuable asset to a business is always is its people. It’s people that make society and business possible. As an entrepreneur, one needs to care about the users and the team. Bonded team and happy users is the route to success.
Possibility. Being an entrepreneur gives you a future completely open for you to determine. Imagination is the only limit. Endless possibilities it brings open up huge opportunities to make changes and impacts. The possibility of achieving an ambitious goal and the possibility of making the world a better space makes entrepreneurship an exciting path to take and that is my favourite part of being an entrepreneur.
Jack Ma has been a great inspiration for me. His emphasis on value and vision changed the way I look at companies. A company shouldn’t just be a money-making machine. It should set out with a mission and a vision to bring positive changes to the society. The criteria for a great company is whether it can achieve its vision, uphold its values and still remain profitable. This is no easy job but being an entrepreneur is about thinking big, persevering through, upholding the values and doing things that have never been done before – and I think Jack Ma sets a good example.
I am very interested to find out why Alibaba is investing in sectors such as entertainment and sports which are less relevant to its online business and what his plans are for investing in these sectors.
The most important lesson we have learnt to date is to always value the people around. People make business happen. It is important to have a bonded team and the team members should not just be business partners but also great friends for life. So when tough times come, everyone will support each other to weather through the difficulties.
We have so far been bootstrapping the venture and all expenses come from the founding team. We are planning to pitch for our first round of funding soon.
We haven’t participated in any sector specific awards/grans/competitions directly related to our business. However, we are in the process of applying to SEIS.
The best thing about being an entrepreneur in Oxford is that you are able to meet some of the best minds in the world. The downside is the university administration can be very inefficient/bureaucratic/difficult to work with when you want to get their support.
The Said Business School, Entrepreneurship Centre and Oxford Foundry are all great resources to look into. They offer a great network of people and many really helpful programs, including VIEW which we ourselves have gone through. There are also many great online resources, Samaltman is one of them.
Building a business is not easy. Never do it because you think it’s cool. You need to genuinely believe in your idea and be able to enjoy the life as an entrepreneur.