From launching Warwick Congress to building his own business venture, BSc International Business graduate Alex Balderstone shares how he spotted a gap in the market for start-up companies, and developed his own virtual platform for budding entrepreneurs.
I have just finished my fourth and final year at Warwick Business School (WBS) where I studied BSc International Business with French, and alongside my studies I founded my own company AGORA in late 2018. I chose to come to WBS because I was looking for an undergraduate course that offered a selection of modules to enable me to tailor my degree and pursue my personal interests. I also wanted to study a language, and WBS provided the perfect environment to encapsulate all of my requirements. Throughout my studies I have met some amazing people who have shaped who I have become, and for me this has undoubtedly been the best part of my time at WBS. It has a hugely diverse student body of students and academic staff from all different cultures and backgrounds, meaning that you can learn so much from one another.
During my time at WBS I launched Warwick Congress in 2016, and in a short time it became one of the largest student conferences in the UK. The experience I obtained from running Warwick Congress taught me everything I needed to know about launching my own business venture, managing a team, and navigating a range of hurdles. This experience was pivotal in inspiring me to create more of my own business ventures.
When looking back at my course and how it helped me with my business venture, I feel that the range of modules that I studied were fundamental in helping me set up my business AGORA. I learnt a range of new skills such as interpreting contracts, preparing accounts and working as part of a team. As most people who have started a business will tell you, your experience at university can provide you with a solid grounding for starting your own business venture, but you will need the passion and drive to continue to learn as your business develops.
Founding AGORA with my co-founder Trishna was based on our own personal experiences in having little or no support in establishing our own previous companies, which clearly highlighted a gap in the market. Following this we created the concept of AGORA, a virtual platform to help businesses in their early stages by providing them with all the support that may need to create a successful business. As part of my course at WBS, you get to spend your third year abroad, studying in the language that you are learning as a part of your degree. I spent my third year studying at HEC Paris, which was a really good experience for me to study business in a different educational system whilst also improving my language skills. Whilst I was at HEC I was lucky enough to be involved in activities at Station F (the world’s largest start-up campus) which helped me to understand issues that start-up companies face in relation to finance and funding. The international approach in France certainly made me more aware of potential opportunities outside of the UK, and helped me to understand more about start-up companies in the French market.
My top tips for future students who want to start their own business whilst studying, would be to always do what you think is right. In addition to this it is important to create a support network and remember to ask for help when you are unsure of something. Running a business is a full-time commitment, and what you put in to your business is what you will get out of it. I have now finished my studies at WBS and I’m working full-time on AGORA with the rest of our team who support our activities. We have already launched our Beta version of the platform, and I am excited to launch the next versions of the platform later this year.
Want to find out more about the undergraduate course that Alex studied? Our BSc International Business course allows you to combine your passion for languages alongside business studies by studying French, Spanish, Italian or German.