Who am I?
Hey, I’m Ayaz, and I just graduated from the Department of Innovation and Technology Management at the University of Tartu. I now work as a product manager, and I am also a doctoral researcher at the University of Jyvaskyla in the IT Faculty (specialisation in Educational Technology). While studying at UT, I started a company, Inskillz, together with my friend, Gultan. And, in this post, I will try to share my experience with opening a company as a student.
Why did I decide to move to Estonia?
Before moving to the company part, I would like to share my experience as to how I decided to move to Estonia. I always saw the name of “Estonia” in my geography exams in high school, and during my university years, I kept getting more information about Estonia, because almost all startup and IT-related news was coming from this country. Of course, when you get a lot of updates about one place, you directly start to learn more about it, and that is how I began to fall in love with Eesti.
I always wanted to live in a country with cold weather, and I think Estonia is a heaven for chionophile people like me. The weather, the University of Tartu, the Innovation and Technology Management Department, and the openness of the people motivated me to make my decision about moving to this amazing country
How did I decide to open a company?
To me, almost everyone has one idea which they would like to make real by opening a company. When I came to Estonia, it was quite challenging to find networking or professional events to meet up with other people.
Even though we really wanted to join some events, it was hard to find the ones which aimed to connect people and educate. That was the moment that we decided that: “OK, we can give it a try to organize such events, and see how it works”.
But there are always dozens of problems that occur in this way, such as finding the right people to start and grow the company, the ones who really trust the idea, and, of course, developing the product, marketing this idea, legal/financial issues. But I was kind of lucky because I already had mates who were ready to take on this responsibility. After talking with them, I actually understood that it would be a good idea to start the company directly with them, rather than waiting. I always prefer making something, and to see whether it works or not. So these people were the main reason to start the company.
Hereby, I have to mention that in order to open the company in Estonia, I only spent 3 hours preparing and submitting all the documents. Then, after checking our documents within only 4-5 days, the system sent the notification that we had a registered company in Estonia. You can check more information about opening a company in Estonia here.
What is Inskillz?
When we started Inskillz (inskillz.io), it was just a marketing newsletter, and we were sharing growth-hacking tips, vacancies, tools, and news there. After a certain point, our subscribers started to ask whether we had a community or not, and we kept telling them that: “Currently, we do not have the community, but we plan to open one”. One day, we decided to open both Facebook and Slack communities. That was the moment that we became more than a newsletter, and we started to gather people who actively participate within the product development process with marketing, data, design, and product management backgrounds. Now, in this community, we regularly organize meetups, events, workshops, and we also create podcasts, blogs, and videos.
Inskillz: Game-based learning for all who are in love with building products.
At Inskillz, we also build games for those who would like to improve their knowledge in marketing, data, design, and product management. Currently, we are creating games for large enterprises and organizations such as UNDP and EU; however, we plan to launch our first games for individuals already in December of 2021. Basically, people will be able to play the games online, or they will be able to purchase the board game directly from our shop.
What are the advantages/disadvantages of being a full-time student and building your company at the same time?
I could list here hundreds of benefits of building your company, but I will only mention a few. 🙂
1. When you start a company, you really have to deal with many things, such as marketing, design, legal issues, fundraising, etc. All of these help you to understand what you really like to do.
2. Then, while doing all these things, you also improve your skills massively. For example, if you do a marketing internship at a big enterprise, then you will only learn one part of marketing. But when you build your own company there is no such word as “learning one marketing field”. You have to know and test email, influencers, content, social media marketing, and so on.
3. And the last advantage that I would like to mention is networking. From the day that I started building Inskillz, I met so many amazing professionals, both from Baltics and all over the world, who even supported us to reach out to more people. So basically, building your own company helps you to learn and connect much more than you can do as a student. Of course, sometimes you generally have a chance to implement the theory that you learn at the university in your own company.
I still would not call them disadvantages, but for some, these could be the drawbacks of being a full-time student and building your company at the same time.
1. First of all, you need to be ready to hustle. You will have many courses to pass, and the company that you would like to grow as fast as possible, and this is only possible through working hard.
2. Secondly, you will need to miss some parties, for sure.
How to start a company without dropping out of university?
I think in general it is not that hard to keep being a full-time student while building your own company. The point here is how much you are ready to grow your company. You may have a registered company where you work only a few hours per month, or you could spend hours per day. So, if you prefer to focus too much on your company, then the idea of dropping out of university will always be there, and I will try to share my solutions based on my experience.
Firstly, try to plan each stage of your studies. Always be aware of how many credits you want to take in which semester, and rather than taking many courses in one semester, you can separate them equally among all study periods. You can also discuss with your co-founder that if they do not have many credits in that semester, then you could take more credits.
Secondly, try to combine your studies with your company. I know many cases where I was asked to prepare presentations for the courses that I was taking, and in these cases I prepared presentations considering my own company. For example, if the professor is asking you to do market research for a certain industry, then you can choose the industry in which your company operates as well. Or you can go even bigger, and write your thesis based on the cases in your company. It will be a win-win situation both for your study life and your company’s growth.
Next, you are only at university for a few years, so try to experience it in as productive, useful, and fun a way as possible. Never forget that you can choose the course that you like the most to make university life much more interesting, and even these courses would help you to implement the growth strategies in your company.
Lastly, but most importantly, both your studies and your company are parts of an amazing journey, and rather than stressing a lot about any of them, try to make them more fun and interesting.