Pawel was the Director of Alumni relations at CUE. Pawel is a Tech Entrepreneur with 5+ yrs of experience working as Head of Growth and formerly as CTO for startups. He is now the co-founder and CGO of Smartschool.
Do you have any advice for people who are looking to start their own businesses?
Find a good co-founder. This will be my advice. Your co-founder should be someone who, first of all, you trust. Second of all, you need to invest time in building rapport with them. Try to find someone whose skill sets complement yours, someone with a completely orthogonal mindset. Their claims and perspectives might even challenge yours. If you are very similar to each other, then you will have the same biases and the same limitations.
What are some of the challenges that you encountered on your journey? And what were some of the lessons you’ve learnt?
Our journey to our current stage took about a year, which included five product ideas. We launched a completely new landing page and a paid advertising campaign and all of them failed to generate any meaningful sales. From this experience, I learned the importance of selling before building. For those in B2C, creating a landing page using a platform such as Webflow and advertising it online can determine if potential customers will click through to the checkout page. If nobody is visiting the checkout page, it's not worthwhile developing the product. Even if you create the product, it won't matter if you can't attract customers to your landing page and checkout.
At first, we had that typical entrepreneur feeling of "this is it" when we started, but soon realized our initial idea was not viable. It took us a couple of months to accept that nobody wanted it. My advice is to be critical of your idea and ensure it's not just something nice to have, but a product that people need and are willing to purchase. Asking people if they like your idea is not enough; you need to ask if they are ready to buy and be willing to give you their money. A good marketing budget won't make up for a lack of initial product-market fit. When people are paying for an imperfect MVP and say they love it even though it looks bad and breaks every once in a while, it is a strong sign that you are onto something big.
You mentioned that you were responsible for the growth and marketing side of your business. Do you have advice on how one could develop their marketing skills?
University courses on marketing are very bad - they are disconnected from the startup world that I have been in. They tend not to have much relevance to the work you actually have to do - for example, university courses don't teach you how to build a community on TikTok, or how to write viral headlines that convert to clicks. I do have a couple of books that might be of interest to you:
That leads to our final question - do you have any recommended books or podcasts?
CUE aims to educate and encourage students to consider entrepreneurial careers, and is renowned for hosting some of the most successful student-run business creation competitions in the world.