They went on to start up RateMyPlacement, a website which provides access to internships and placements and also publishes students’ reviews on their placement and internship experiences, giving undergraduates independent insight into life on placement.
Oliver Sidwell, one of the co-founders of RateMyPlacement, told us more about turning a problem into a business and starting a business as a new graduate.
The idea for RateMyPlacement was born out of our own experiences whilst on placements and internships back in 2006. The conclusion of one particularly unproductive afternoon was that there wasn’t enough information out there for us when we were researching the placement and internship opportunities available. And wouldn’t it have been great if we could have spoken to our placement predecessors to find out what life was really like on placement…
The initial RateMyPlacement site first went live in March 2007 to Loughborough University students.Within a few weeks, the website had received 100 reviews with over 500 members and we started to see visitors using the website from universities across the UK.
During this period of early growth, we worked hard on starting to develop relationships with university placement officers and shortly before we graduated from Loughborough, we won the University Business Plan Competition which gave us £1,500 to reinvest back into the business.
No master plan
I would love to say that we followed text book advice and drew up an extensive business plan for RateMyPlacement. In fact, the commercial aspect was something that evolved after the initial website was up and running.
As the website started to attract more and more visitors and we assessed the online market for undergraduates, it became increasingly obvious that there was a potential for this to develop into a commercial venture.
Using the money won in the Business Plan Competition, we developed the initial advertising elements of the website and set about contacting employers to inform them of the website and our services which could complement any student-generated reviews they may have. Somehow, we managed to land ourselves meetings with graduate recruiters at both PwC and Accenture, who went on to become our first two clients, followed by Logica and IBM.
We are very grateful to these companies for their early support and it’s no surprise that these companies do so well in attracting the top student talent.
We were able to quit our day jobs in 2008 and since then, through rapidly increasing our on-campus presence, the number of students using the website and our client base, we have evolved into a fully fledged, profit-generating organisation.
We have now moved into our second office on the Albert Embankment in London and have a full-time team of 13, including three graduates and four of our very own placement students!
With RateMyPlacement.co.uk, our flagship product is continuing to thrive and since then we have expanded horizontally in the undergraduate space adding ‘The National Placement & Internship Awards’, ‘A Students’ Guide to the Top Placement & Internship Employers’ publication and On-Campus Promotions to our portfolio.
In July 2011, we were also named London winners of the ‘Barclays Take One Small Step’ competition, winning £50,000 first prize in the process!
The reality of running a business
The hardest part about running a start-up business is probably the impact it has on your whole life! Consistently working 60-hour weeks, usually encompassing some evenings and weekends, can affect the rest of your life.
However, we don't view it as 'work' as I think we all love what we do. The most rewarding thing is seeing all our employees enjoy working here and seeing them perform, learn and grow with the company, as that shows we’re having a significant impact on their development.
We had no great master plan of where we wanted to be now - we had a good idea that with hard work and determination has taken off. If you have a good idea and have thought it soundly through, then give it a go!
Find out more about RateMyPlacement.