After graduating from Imperial College London in 2011, Michael Willmott started working right away – as CEO of Knodium.
Michael is a young entrepreneur from the UK who built an open collaboration platform for students and professors at the university level. He got the idea for Knodium from a problem he himself faced as a student. He saw that there was no good way to collaborate, share documents, or discuss problems with other students or tutors. Students would use Facebook groups or other existing platforms to connect, but there was nothing that met the specific needs of the education sector.
So he started building a platform that would allow him to ask questions about the topics he was studying. After graduating, that project turned into Knodium. Knodium now has members from 15 higher education institutions across the UK and has secured seed funding to continue development.
Overcoming the uncertainty
Michael explained his motivation for being an entrepreneur:
“I just really like the idea of being able to make products and solve problems that people have. To be able to build something that then gets used by thousands of students is really cool.”
His friends thought he was nuts to start his own business rather than getting a job, but his family was supportive. To Michael, it just seemed like the right time.
“My feeling was that if I don’t do it now, I’ll just regret it,” he said.
The biggest challenge to being an entrepreneur, according to Michael, is the uncertainty. You might think you have a great idea, but you don’t really know until you validate the product. There’s no-one to tell you what to do; you have to decide what to do.
“The main thing to do is just be really confident in what you’re doing. And if there are any areas that you’re not confident in, find out more about and seek help.”
Changes in education = opportunities in education
Michael spoke about the current opportunities for entrepreneurs in the education field.
“There’s all sorts of change going on in education at the moment, right through from the publishing industry […] to student engagement, which is where we work, even down to MOOCs, so looking at completely new education models.”
He also pointed out that many programmes exist to support new entrepreneurs. You don’t have to be a business expert; if you have a good idea and you want to start a company, seek out the people and organizations that can help you.
“There’s never going to be a good time to start a business, I don’t think, so just do it when you’ve got an idea.”