Up until a few short decades ago, most traditional businesses regarded college and university students as not worth the time or effort. This left the market open for savvy individuals such as former-teacher Lynda Weinman co-founder of Lynda.com, Richard Parsons, founder of CGP educational publishing and catering-supply entrepreneur Andrew Nisbet.
However, times have changed, and though there are slightly less young people going to college and university they have a more significant disposable income and higher expectations of student life. However, provides tech entrepreneurs with opportunities in a whole host of areas.
Money, food and accommodation
Last year there were more than two million students enrolled in higher education in the UK and 14 million in the US. Living away from home for the first time can be a real challenge for these young people. Everything is new and different, and it can be an overwhelming experience, so any tech that makes sourcing the basics a bit easier is always going to be popular.
Some of the fastest-growing startups are fintechs that help students, and everyone else, manage their money. Wally, You Need A Budget and Dollarbird are some of the most popular, but students have specific needs, and the startups with the most targeted approach to a student’s lifestyle have the most potential. Splitwise, for example, allows groups of friends to split the cost of a meal easily and quickly, keep track of who owes what, and pay each other back instantly.
Of course, finding student accommodation is always a challenge, but a number of tech startups have made it a whole lot easier. One of the biggest is Studentpad that connects landlords with students looking for accommodation. However, it’s likely that this area is going to transform over the next ten years as the Airbnb attitude becomes mainstream. That leaves a lot of space for innovative new startups.
Tech that makes learning easier
Learning is central to student life, and it has proved fertile ground for tech entrepreneurs over the last 10 years. But the way students want to learn, combined with increased competition amongst universities for the best students, will doubtless drive new learning innovations.
Current apps in this space come in many different shapes and sizes from mind-mapping tool Ayoa, AI-powered mistake-spotting tech such as Grammarly, and language-learning platform Memrise. However, it’s still the lifestyle, and life management, apps that point the way forward.
For example, many students find that life suddenly becomes incredibly busy, and all this juggling can create havoc when it comes to organisation, especially at revision time. One app gives a hint to the unexplored territory for today’s startup entrepreneurs. Remember The Milk, is a simple way to keep all your thoughts, ideas and to-do lists together. It works cross-platforms and devices, even on Apple Watch, and with Alexa. This is the kind of tech ground that startups will be fighting over in the future.
There are also some much more significant issues that affect students, especially those whose course includes a mandatory year studying abroad.
One entrepreneur, Lizzie Fane, took her own experiences of a year overseas, turned them into a business idea and founded ThirdYearAbroad. Now called Global Graduates, the site is a huge support and advice community for everything to do with studying and working abroad. Online communities are bound to play an even more prominent role in the future of student life, and entrepreneurs should look closely at this space.
Solutions to the post-graduate challenge
Student debt is a big issue, and fintechs can provide new solutions in this vital area too. GradJoy, for example, is a fintech that helping graduates manage their loan repayments, discover refinancing options and create sensible budgets.
Clearly, to pay back your loan you need a job first, and of course there are some great apps for that too including Debut, which matches your skills with employers looking to take on apprentices or first-job applicants. However, this one standout startup masks the considerable potential of the jobs sector for today’s entrepreneurs.
The UK’s recruitment industry was worth more than £35 billion last year and many traditional recruiters are not ready, or able, to embrace either the latest AI advances or the rapidly changing expectations of the next generation of employees.
Younger workers are looking for meaningful jobs in ethically sound companies and are no longer content to stay in one job for decades. This gives entrepreneurs possibly one of the most significant opportunities out there: to create the foundational recruitment business of the future.
The global student market is massive and young people have high expectations of the kind of tech they want when they get there, and after they leave. Universities are also keen to get in on the ground with new tech. Entrepreneurs should take a close look at the sector and see what lessons they can learn for the future.