Olivia Memmi

Enterprise success stories

Olivia Memmi

What do you study at the University of Exeter?

BA Business & Management (Class of 2014)

 

What is your business all about?

Webeg2differ (www.webeg2differ.org) is a non-profit student organization (NPO) in the form of an online, inter-university student newspaper. It is managed and written “for and by students” worldwide.

Our objective is to connect students and ideas through opinion sharing and discussion. Any university studentcan submit an article that will be reviewed and published. The only guideline is the following: “write about anything you feel strongly about in 350 words”. Our intention is to reject only offensive material: so far all submissions have been published.  Many students start their article with “I beg to differ!” Webeg2differ currently includes articles in English and in French; we aspire to attract contributions in more languages in the future.  To date, we have readers in 119 countries. 

A recent addition to the website is “Art2differ”, where students can post their artwork and photos, along with a short explanation of what it means to them.

Webeg2differ is also a network of students who meet at different events, including conferences and socials. Recent events took place in Bath, Montréal and Paris, and gathered students from different universities.

 

What is your business’s unique selling point (USP)? What is your main form of advertising? Who are your main competitors?

What is unique about Webeg2differ is its format. Articles have a 350 word limit, so students have time to both read and write them. The idea is to be concise and to share your opinion and ideas on a topic, not to provide extensive background information on a subject. Articles are straightforward and powerful. We advertise mainly through social media, and our main competitors are university newspapers, such as Exeter’s Exeposé.

Where did your idea come from? What is the start-up story behind your business?

I attended an international school in France and after secondary school, we all left to study in different universities worldwide. When we met again, we realized how much we had changed and how distinct our opinions and visions of the world had become, due to our different experiences, locations and university education. But we all had one common concern: how would we improve our world? This was the start of WB2D. The idea was to create a platform that would allow us to exchange our different ideas, while discussing and working towards solutions.

Juggling your academic studies with your new business as well as still having a social life must be a challenge. How do you accommodate the three and what does an average day, if you have one, look like for you?

By being organised and efficient, prioritizing and delegating. I wouldn’t say there is an average day, it doesn’t allow for a routine. I can be in the middle of an essay and have an unexpected problem requiring immediate attention.

What things helped you learn how to run a new business? Has there been anything or anyone in particular that has helped you along the way?

I ran the organisation very intuitively and mostly learnt through experience. What really made a difference were the talented students who helped us build the project, from journalists and editors to marketers and web designers.

What support have you received from the University?

I received great support from the University. IGNITE and its in-house entrepreneurs mentored us and helped us devise a clear strategy and targets. The Innovation Center trained us for our pitching competition in London in which we won a finalist position. The Entrepreneur Society was also very supportive, with many student entrepreneurs keen to help.

What do you think has been your key to success so far?

The key to our success is the incredible teams of students that develop the project, contributing their talent, passion and hard work.

Have you made any mistakes along the way? Is so, what have you learnt from these? And further, if you could go back in time, are there any things that you would change or would do differently?

My biggest mistake was to follow the advice of people I trusted to know better than us, such as investors, when I really thought they were wrong. Feedback and advice is important, but I learnt to also trust myself and our teams to follow their ideas and intuitions. I wouldn’t change anything; we had to make those mistakes to learn from them.

What can we look forward to in terms of your business? Have you got any future plans for it?

Our next project is “Discuss2differ”. The idea behind it is to encourage debate and go beyond our standalone articles. We want to encourage students around the globe to interact, discuss, and challenge each other’s views while devising practical solutions. 

How about yourself? Where do you see yourself in five years? Ten years?

I see myself creating or working for a strong entrepreneurial company, with a culture for innovation. I hope to live in different countries, and experience new lives and cultures.

What advice do you have for other University of Exeter students who are looking to start their own business?

If you believe in your idea, don’t be afraid to take the leap, to make mistakes, and pursue your goals. Also, make the most of the support and opportunities provided by University.