If you have an idea for a start-up, you might be thinking about waiting to explore it until you have graduated. There is so much work at university and starting a business as well can seem daunting. But according to Christopher Trunk-Black, Senior Programme Manager at the Acceleration Programme at Copenhagen School of Entrepreneurship (CSE), university is one of the best times to test your idea:
“At university, you already have a support system: you are receiving SU and don’t have to think about money and funding immediately. Besides this, you have access to so many helpful resources such as CSE, your teachers and your fellow students,” he says.
Another important element in starting a business while you are at university is that the environment encourages you to test things, so handling the mistakes that you are bound to make is easier than when you are out in “the real world”.
“You learn from your mistakes and, as an entrepreneur find the saying: ‘Fail fast, fail often’ is very accurate. If it was easy, everyone would be doing it. That being said, failing while in a safe environment like university makes it more bearable than if you have risked everything, including your well-paid fulltime job, to start a company later,” he says.
Frederik Riber Larsen, a master’s student in Business and Development studies and co-founder of the consulting company Arriber agrees with Christopher Trunk-Black that university is a prime time to start a company:
“University provides a playground where you can test your ideas in a safe environment. I feel that failing and learning while at university would not hurt as much as failing afterward. And suppose you wait until after graduation to start a company. In that case, you will miss out on knowledge, competent feedback and valuable learnings,” says Frederik Riber Larsen.
Start-up made classes more meaningful
The idea of creating Arriber came to Frederik Riber Larsen in class during his first semester at CBS. He looked at his classmates and thought that, with their combined knowledge, they could do a lot to help companies expand to other countries.
However, it was not until he took a gap year between his bachelor’s and master’s degrees to work at the Trade Council at the Royal Danish Embassy in Barcelona that the company was started. Frederik called one of his friends from CBS, Simon Holm Madsen, who was doing a similar internship at the Trade Council at the Royal Danish Embassy in Berlin. Simon agreed with Frederik that they could help other companies expand to new international markets through their own consulting company. Now they help companies to validate the potential of new markets, get their first clients and establish subsidiaries.
I have ADHD, and I lose focus quickly if the subject in class doesn’t interest me. Starting Arriber helped me find more meaning in my classes.Frederik Riber Larsen
For Frederik Riber Larsen, starting his own company made his classes much more relatable to him.
“I have ADHD, and I lose focus quickly if the subject in class doesn’t interest me. Starting Arriber helped me find more meaning in my classes since I always think of how to use what I am learning in Arriber. It has made my education more meaningful, and my development as a student has been incredible because of it,” he says.
Explore your start-up in class – even if it’s only an idea
Because starting his own company has been so valuable for Frederik Riber Larsen, he encourages other students to follow suit, even if they are only remotely interested in the idea.
“You don’t need a company registration number (CVR-nummer in Danish). You can start by exploring an idea you have and use the knowledge you gain in classes to make it more tangible,” says Frederik Riber Larsen.
Christopher Trunk-Black seconds this, adding that even if you only have an idea, you are still more than welcome at CSE.
“At one of our recent bi-weekly kick-off meetings for startups, there was one guy who had nothing but a lot of yellow post-it notes about his idea on his wall at home. This is just to say that you don’t need a well-established startup to receive guidance and mentoring at CSE and even if your ideas come to nothing, you will still have learned a lot by exploring them,” he says.
Work as an intern at your own company
One of the ways that the students affiliated with CSE can explore their companies is by doing an internship at their own company. Frederik Riber Larsen did this last year (2022), and his co-founder Matias Vidal Andersen has an internship at Arriber scheduled for autumn 2023.
“Doing an internship at my own company meant I had a lot more time to work on Arriber and gained better insight much quicker. It was invaluable to be able to do this,” he says.
Frederik Riber Larsen adds that he could write the mandatory end-of-semester internship report in only 16 hours because it was about his own company. He had access to all the knowledge required and all the relevant data close at hand.
After he graduates from CBS this summer, he will work fulltime at Arriber and has, in effect, created his own job while at the university. Which he sees as another benefit of starting a company while studying:
“Instead of looking for a job or starting from scratch with a company, now we have a company that is already up and running and where we are earning money. Another great thing about Arriber is that we are now four co-founders, and in January 2023, we established the ApS company, meaning that we have a much better foundation for future growth.”