Entrepreneurship in the higher education market in the Netherlands is thriving. Today’s EDUKWEST Startup Profile features Stuvia, a marketplace for study resources with currently more than 200.000 users across Europe.
Marketplaces for sharing and selling study notes seem to be equally popular and rapidly growing both in Europe and the US alike, one most prominent to date probably being Notehall before it got acquired by juggernaut Chegg in 2011. It shouldn’t be left out that there was some controversy around the legality of selling notes to peers before the acquisition took place, and still today Chegg hasn’t made use of the Notehall assets it seems.
That aside, if we take a look at Flashnotes.com’s rapid growth through acquiring smaller competitors or Course Hero’s $15 million Series A the popularity of and the demand for such marketplaces remains strong.
Introduce your startup and give a short description of what you are doing.
Stuvia is a marketplace for study resources. The idea behind Stuvia is to connect students who need help with those who are willing to be paid to help, or help for free. Students can sell notes, summaries, flashcards and other study aids to fellow students at a price they choose. Students create personal profiles through which they can communicate with other Stuvia users, and which increase the transparency of the platform. We hope to be able to encourage students to help each other more and rely less on constant help from professors.
Who are the founders, how did you meet, what are your different roles in the startup.
Stuvia was founded in 2010 by Martijn Scheen and Jaap van Nes, who met each other during their masters at the VU University Amsterdam. The foundation of Stuvia was established during one of the courses, where one was challenged to come up with an idea for a digital service.
Martijn, CEO and responsible for all business opportunities, already founded a company called DUSB (Digital USB), which was kind of a pre-Dropbox sharing tool for students.
Jaap, CTO and responsible for the technical side of the company, was also already on an entrepreneurial journey. His company (DokterAnders, a Dutch version of the latin ‘doctorandus’) helped students finishing the data-analysis section of their thesis. After finishing university both shook hands and started to develop their university project into what is now a student service used by more than 200.000 students in Europe.
What is the main problem in education that you aim to solve.
As a true marketplace, Stuvia solves a problem for both sides of the market: notetakers and ‘downloaders’. First, by uploading and selling their study material, notetakers can earn money, grant others the chance to benefit from their accumulated knowledge and in doing so, prevent their hard work from going to waste. Everybody is free to decide what price they want to charge or whether they want to share their work for free. Every time someone downloads their documents or flashcards, they earn money and build their (online) reputation.
Second, the unique, timely, and perfectly curated notes also benefit those students in need for additional study resources. While regular publishers update their offerings maybe once a year, Stuvia offers ‘just-for-you’ notes written by fellow students. Notetakers create authentic packages just for their peers, incorporating ideas originated in the lectures, part of the study book, and their own assessment of the content of the course. This enhances the quality of the content and thus leads to a better preparation for their exam.
Who are your competitors? What sets you apart from them?
The true quality of Stuvia is the principle of the marketplace: supply and demand meet and therefore the best content comes forward. Contrary to traditional publishers, Stuvia’s offering is real-time and written by peers. The content is therefore up-to-date and tailored just to the student’s needs.
In which markets / regions are you active. What markets / regions are next.
Stuvia originated as a Dutch initiative. However, since 2014 the service is also available in the United Kingdom, Germany, France, Spain, and Belgium. Our goal is becoming the market leader in online study resources in Europe. The companies full focus is currently on internationally scaling the platform and turning the European endeavor into as big of a success as it is in The Netherlands.
Who is your target audience.
Stuvia is built for students in higher education (college/university).
How do you engage with your target audience. How do you convert them into users of your product.
Stuvia’s notes are well-found on the internet. Students typically search for notes on Google (i.e. “principles of marketing notes”) or notetakers promote their notes on closed study-only Facebook groups. Once students decide to sign up for Stuvia (it’s free) we accumulate their current study, institution, year, etc, from which our automated system presents them the best notes available. Because notetakers also enter their exam details, we are able to communicate with students just before their exams saying “Hey, we got this great notes for Course X”.
What is your business model. How much does your product / service cost.
Students decide themselves how much money they ask for their notes. Prices range from €2,50 to €7,50, with outliers to €15,00 for enormous law notes. Stuvia takes a commission on each sale.
If you raised funding, how much did you raise. Who are your investors. If not, are you planning to raise funding.
Stuvia currently has one investor, the Young Capital Fund, which invested an undisclosed amount. We are planning another round of funding for the fall of this year.
Are there milestones you are especially proud of and would like to share.
We are proud of so many things. Knowing that we created a service from scratch which is currently used by more than 200.00 students, who uploaded more than 150.000 notes and provides true (unharvested) value for both notetakers and downloaders means the world to us.
What are the next steps in growing your startup.
We are growing the company on two axes. The first axis is scaling the product internationally and making sure we reach the ‘tipping point’ on multiple universities, i.e. yielding enough notes and students to let the product run organically. The second axis is transforming the service from a one-stop-shop for notes into an adaptive learning platform. Last year we introduced ‘flashcards’ to study the documents students just downloaded and there are numerous other possibilities to support students in their learning process.
Anything else you would like to add.
We are looking for (more) local students ambassadors. So if you’re a student and want to earn some money on the side while studying, please get in touch.
How can people get in touch with you.
If anyone wants to say hello, do drop a line at firstname.lastname@example.org. Of course there is also the website www.stuvia.com.