James Eder is the Founder of the Beans Group – the people behind studentbeans.com and giving you all awesome deals for a while. He started the business back in 2005 at the tender age of 22, and managed to convince his brother, working at JP Morgan to come join him. Now the Beans Group is hugely successful, and James has gone onto a new dream, after successfully helping millions of students. He offers Diss some insights into what it’s like being a young entrepreneur and tells us about his new app, Causr.
So you started Student Beans when you were just 22, do you have any advice for students who want to take the dive and start their own business straight out of university, or even during university?
Just start, however small a task, I’d ask what’s the one thing you can do today to help move your idea forward. Lots of people have ideas but it’s how you execute them that really makes a difference. How can you create something to test your idea and get some real feedback on it? Use the fact that you are a student and young to try something safe in the knowledge that whatever happens you’ll be able to learn from it. Learning by doing is so powerful – you’ll learn so much more from starting a company than reading books or studying about it. Follow what what you believe in and where you can add value or make a difference. Most of all remember to enjoy the journey.
What is it like being a young entrepreneur?
No two days are the same – it’s extremely hard and for many you are unlikely to see the rewards for a long time and sometimes never. Each day generally comes with a rollercoaster of emotions – it’s definitely not for the faint hearted. Sometimes I find myself saying I would never wish in anyone what I’ve had to go through the last 12 or so years. It’s definitely a marathon not a sprint.
How did you ensure that Student Beans was a success with limited resources?
It was about being resourceful and creative. We did a number of partnerships in the early days including working with Jelly Belly to run promotions. The Accor hotel group gave us 70 nights accommodation in exchange for some advertising – these deals gave us the ability to grow faster without the associated costs and really made a difference. Whilst we got a low interest loan from The Prince’s Trust when we started – as we didn’t have much money we just had to be resourceful and do anything and everything we could to make it work.
Are there any smaller businesses you started at university, prior to starting Student Beans?
When I was 13 I started a small project called M & J photos with my brother where we took black and white photos of people’s dogs and sold them the following week. One week the photos we developed didn’t come out properly so I got frustrated and bored with that and moved on. The other project I did was Young Enterprise when I was 17 where we created a websitewww.needanumber.co.uk where we signed up local businesses as a directly service – this was back in 1999 – a huge learning experience where we ended up signing up over 200 local businesses. It ran it’s course and we shut it down as we left school to go to University.
What’s the toughest part of being an entrepreneur in today’s society?
I personally think it’s the relationship we have especially in the UK with the relationship to failure. By the nature of entrepreneurship more people will fail than succeed. The fine line between success and failure is also so thin. Entrepreneurship today has been popularised which perhaps is encouraging more people to take this path but it’s not for everyone.
What has been your best moment in your career?
There are so many to choose from the 19th September 2005 when studentbeans.com went live for the first time, the awards we’ve won, working with some of the largest brands in the world. But likely best moment was after around 2 years of launching we became a sustainable growth business without any major funding which is no small feat.
What are you up to now?
After 11 years at Student Beans I left the business day to day. Running a business and setting one up are two very different things. My brother and Co-Founder Michael is fantastic and I’m hugely proud of what the him and the team are doing taking the company to new heights.
A few years ago I was sitting on the Underground in London when someone came and sat in the seat next to me. They were clutching their CV, so I asked them where they’d been and what they were looking for. A few weeks later, we were sat together again, this time in the office of my first established company, Student Beans.
Sometime later, I needed to speak to a specific person from a company. I left the office, was standing on the platform in Golders Green and happened to meet the exact person I needed to meet. I’d simply asked them if our train was coming soon, and it went from there.
These chance encounters made a real impact on my working life and it got me thinking about the other opportunities I and other people must’ve missed over the years, and continue to miss everyday, so I decided to start Causr.
What is Causr?
Causr is a location-based app that introduces its users to others within the local area. It makes finding nearby professionals with similar jobs, interests and ambitions easy. Scroll through a network of users, see who’s free, meet for coffee, share business advice or simply connect.
Recently launched exclusively on the Apple App Store giving people the opportunity to connect with those near by based on 3 things that gives people context, a basic profile including a name, picture and job title, a status update letting people know what you’re looking for, what you need help or what you can help with and finally joining groups to share with others your passions and interest.
The examples I gave earlier is why I wanted to create Causr. The idea of manufacturing serendipity, though a challenge, was incredibly appealing. I wanted to enable people to create connections that would otherwise be missed. It’s clear to me that these all-important conversations often don’t happen because people lack confidence, or don’t feel like they have permission to start talking to someone they’ve never met before.
Causr sees past that. It’s an enabler – technology that empowers previously unrelated people to connect in real time, face-to-face. It gives people the confidence to start a conversation that may lead to a meaningful opportunity, or simply pass the time and have a chat that might brighten their day.
What is the one thing that makes you get up in the morning and go to work on Causr everyday?
Watching Ben Horrowitz – the idea of doing what you can to contribute to the world is really powerful. I believe I’m here to contribute too. How we can create meaningful connections for people is really important and the legacy I want to create. We’ve already had someone do a £500k business deal as a result of the App. It’s not simply about the monetary value but what the means for people that really drives me.
What’s your dream for it to become?
Our mission is to create millions of meaningful connections for people nearby, all around the world everyday. Dating App’s have normalised the way people connect for romantic, personal relationships. My dream is for Causr to do the same thing for business connections.
Do you think it is of interest to young people? How can students get involved?
Causr is of interest to young people has it modernises the way people are able to connect with each other helping make connections with each other as well as other people in the industry perhaps they want to go into. From meeting like minded people to getting an introduction to someone who could help them get their next job. The best way to get involved is to download the app from the Apple App Store here:
If you’re on android you can pre-register here: http://community.causr.co/android
If you’ve got a community you’re involved with and want to help that community connect you can request a group from within the App.
Interview by Frazer Worboys