A Q&A with Eurasmus co-CEO José Antonio Lama. The Seville, Spain-based startup, which is a resource portal for European exchange students, launched to the public in early April. It was founded in 2011.
SUB: Please describe Eurasmus and your primary innovation.
Lama: Eurasmus.com is an online platform that combines solutions for exchange students within Europe all into one site. Exchange students within Europe are almost always taking part in ‘Erasmus’—not Eurasmus—which is an educational initiative of the European Union involving 33 countries and three million students. The program provides a bursary for these students, allowing them to study for up to one academic year abroad, or a semester. These exchange students have to find accommodation, internships and placements, information, social events, and this is what Eurasmus aims to provide.
We are the first and the only platform that combines all these needs in one site. Our primary innovation is a system which provides an interactive, safe, and reliable booking system for accommodation—through landlord verification, providing customer reviews, and offering guaranteed refunds. On top of this, we have a social tool allowing students to find other students which are in or will be going to the same destination, informational touristic guides designed for international students to give them a 101 guide, and, finally, an internship portal.
SUB: Who are your target markets and users?
Lama: Having already briefly mentioned the Erasmus target market, to delve into it a little deeper, it consists right now of three million students but is expected to increase to around five million students by as early as 2014, although this will include non-Europeans as well.
Erasmus students are between the age of 18-to-26 years old, and are already enrolled in an officially-recognized university or vocational school. Yet in reality any exchange student within Europe is within our target market.
SUB: Who do you consider to be your competition, and what differentiates Eurasmus from the competition?
Lama: Our system is reliable and it provides a whole range of solutions with the international student in mind. All our information is made by students for students. The accommodation is verified through landlord checks, [and] the internships are checked to be conforming with the Erasmus guidelines. The continuous development of our technology means that we are the best in the market.
SUB: You just announced your public launch. Why was this the right time to launch?
Lama: Our project started in September, 2013, and since then we have been developing the platform.
Right now, our core, the information and the booking system, is working, so we decided to launch it in order to start introducing the brand and developing the marketing network.
SUB: Have you raised outside funding to this point?
Lama: We have received a European Regional Development Fund and we have had some formal investment offers.
We are planning to have our first round of financing in August or September.
SUB: What was the inspiration behind the idea for Eurasmus? Was there an ‘aha’ moment, or was the idea more gradual in developing?
Lama: We founded the company because we were Erasmus students and we were in that position, and knew that these are the needs of the students. One day, as we were drinking a coffee, we decided—people need this, let’s do it.
SUB: What were the first steps you took in establishing the company?
Lama: In the beginning the primary concern was how to finance the company and then how to organize to be in a position to grow. We are lucky to have from the very start a multilingual team with expertise in IT, marketing and business development.
SUB: How did you come up with the name? What is the story or meaning behind it?
Lama: Eurasmus is the combination of the words ‘EU’ for ‘European Union,’ and ‘Erasmus,’ which is the main program with whom we work. We wanted to make a brand that is easily recognizable, and we believe that every student that knows Erasmus will be able to identify with us.
SUB: What have the most significant challenges been so far to building the company?
Lama: The project needs a large amount of resources to develop, and without a huge team of developers, we cannot develop at the ambitious rate we set for ourselves. Furthermore, we are looking to adapt marketing with technological development so that we can be more efficient with our resources.
SUB: How do you generate revenue or plan to generate revenue?
Lama: From the start, we knew that the only way the project would work was if we were consumer oriented, offering a free service for students and universities alike. Although landlords can put their accommodation online free of charge, they are charged a small fee based on the amount of months the student is planning to stay.
SUB: What are your goals for Eurasmus over the next year or so?
Lama: We have ambitious goals for 2014 to grow and build a complete team, and we aim to make this growth a reality through outside investment.
Our goal for 2014 is €200,000 in gross revenue, and close to €2,000,000 in 2015.