Our Master in Innovation & Entrepreneurship (MIE) students work on their own start-up during eight months. In this way they immediately put theory into practice. FLATM is one of those start-ups that came to life at AMS.
FLATM is a social platform enabling students to connect with each other and form a new flatshare! Whether international or national, from the same university or another, all students within a city are open to connect with - the choice is theirs.
The platform was created by four MIE students (now alumni): Otto Rommens, Mathieu Van Overbeke, Benedikt Weber and Emily Rasenecker. Their goal is to enable millions of students worldwide to live joyfully together and to feel at home anywhere in the world. We asked Emily from flatm some questions about their business and how it came to life.
Q: Where did you find the inspiration to create flatm?
Emily: We are students ourselves and have experienced the many challenges of finding a place to live. It is incredibly difficult to find a room to live in but it is even more of a challenge to find a place that you feel happy in and call home. We have made it our mission to create homes for students, but the true inspiration of what flatm is today, comes from all the students themselves - flatm is a platform that is co-developed with them to create a solution that is truly needed.
Q: How did you come up with the name?
Emily: We would love to tell you a creative story about finding the name, but it is probably the least creative process you could think of! We used a website that suggests names based on keywords… Et voila, flatm was born. Some like the name, some don’t ;)
Q: Where do you see your start-up in five years? What are the next steps?
Emily: We have started as a team that enjoys working together on flatm as a project. We want to keep that mentality to grow flatm into a start-up that people truly enjoy working for. From a platform perspective, flatm is going to be developed immensely within the next years. Currently, we have launched our first MVP (minimum viable product) and the next version is already in development to improve the usability, functionality, and scalability. We don’t want to take away too much, but flatm is going to be much more than you could possibly think of!
Q: How did the MIE program help you to build your start-up?
Emily: MIE taught us a lot in terms of the process of starting up and the importance of getting to the root of a problem to get to the core that is worth of solving. To be honest, we got annoyed of the heavy focus on the problem space, but we must admit as well that this focus has brought us to where we are right now, and we wouldn’t change it in the curriculum. Another massive impact of MIE is its “get out” mentality to speak with all your stakeholders, to become an expert in your market, and to get to know your customers. AMS has had an incredible impact on this as all coaches and any other AMS staff was open to connect us to their network. Hence, thanks to them, we were able to tap into a huge network of valuable stakeholders to build our own.
Q: What are the most significant characteristics/ entrepreneurial skills you and your MIE master project must have to succeed?
Emily: Execution – stop talking and go for it, execute your ideas and plans. Otherwise your startup will never be more than an imagination. You must have the confidence and trust in yourself to step out of your comfort zone and challenge yourself and each other constantly. Lastly, the skill to put your ego aside to be able to listen and observe carefully. Remember it is not about being right or wrong about something, it is about listening to and observing your customers to create value for them.
Q: Which challenges did you encounter during those 8 months you worked on your start-up?
Emily: A challenge that we underestimated is the alignment with the team. It is a challenge to take the time to get to know each other, accept each other, learn from each other, etc. in order to be aligned as a team. We are all very different from one another, so we really had to learn how to leverage our differences. Now, after 8 months of working together, we can say with confidence that we are well aware of each other’s skillsets and characteristics, and we can leverage each other to the best of our abilities.
The biggest challenge for us was to open up. We are all confident in our judgments and have egos that, in the beginning, prevented us from listening to others. We had an idea in our mind that we wanted to push forward without having explored the idea at all. However, we learned quickly how valuable it is to get out, speak with everyone you encounter, and choose what you consider as important and what not. We had to realize that input is incredibly important.
Q: Do you have any final tips/ lessons for the students of the next MIE cohort?
Emily: If you truly want to start up and become an entrepreneur, go and find people who have that same mindset and team up with them! This is how we approached our team formation and that passion for entrepreneurship is what drives us. There are many people in class who either don’t want to start up or say they want to but actually don’t care as much as other people about starting a business. I personally made a list of all my classmates in the beginning and marked the ones who were truly into starting up. One of them was Bene who I approached directly once we started to form teams. And luckily, Otto did just that and this is how we became such a strong team with a strong drive to make business.
Do you want to become a successful entrepreneur as well?