Carmen Steiner is student of the Communication and Media degree of Hogeschool Utrecht and a participant in the previous edition of StartupLeap. She is also founder of Elpis, a platform that aims to bring students together, where they can connect with others and find like-minded people and form real connections.
Tell us a bit about your startup?
I am currently working on creating an app that will give users access to a student support network called Elpis. It is a platform that aims to bring students together, where they can connect with others and find like-minded people and form real connections. It is not about how you look or what you have, but who you are. Users can share their thoughts in private conversations, read about other people’s stories on their feed, or ask questions in forums to get advice from others who face the same challenges as they do. Elpis is a peer support network where students help students.
Why did you decide to become a founder?
I always loved listening to the stories of founders and entrepreneurs, and I was so fascinated by their dedication and how much hard work they put into something they believe in. Seeing others pursuing that dream and trying to make a change in the world, I thought to myself, “maybe I can do this too”. Founding your own business is very complex and involves so many factors, and you really have to learn & understand a lot of different things in a short amount of time, but I love that complexity.
How did you find the problem and the solution?
When I talked to my friends, classmates, or fellow students I felt like I had the same conversations about the same issues over and over again. Many feel the pressure of University and fitting in, struggle to find their place in our society, or worry about their lives after they graduate. But I also talked to many who had to go through this and eventually overcame these obstacles so, people often have the knowledge, but simply no platform where they can share it. Another factor is that when we look at pictures of others online we always see the good times and sunny days and this can make us feel insecure and alone with our problems, but the reality is, especially as students, there are so many others who had to overcome the same challenges. So, I thought why is there no platform where we can talk about this without any judgment and connect with other like-minded people?
What surprised you the most about being a startup founder?
You really have to take it one day at a time. Everything can change so quickly, and you need to learn how you can adapt to these changes. I was prepared for the work and the amount of time you have to put in, but sometimes you just have to figure things out along the way.
What’s the coolest thing about being a founder?
Creating something from scratch and turning it into a real product. It’s really cool to see how an idea you’ve had in your head comes to life and it is so rewarding to get positive feedback when people test your product and seeing that they are interested in what you create. I am at the very beginning but seeing progress and knowing that I create something valuable for others is for me the best thing about being a founder.
What’s the worst thing about being a founder?
Definitely, the emotional roller coaster that comes with it. There are good times and not so good times. Some days you can see progress, and everything just works out and on other days you feel like you hit rock bottom, and on these days, it is so important to remember your ‘why’. You need to be open to the possibilities but also the uncertainty and be ok with not knowing what comes next.
If you can go back in time, what would you do differently?
I think I should have trusted myself and the process a bit more. There are some days where everything changes so fast and as I said, sometimes you just have to learn a lot in a really short amount of time, but it’s alright because you can’t know everything and making mistakes is normal and you shouldn’t beat yourself up for it.