Printing is the bane of most students’ lives, an unavoidable expense, especially for those living on a campus environment. So what would you do if given the opportunity to print all your notes, assignments, and even personal documents, completely free of charge? Well, that is exactly what Justin Ahn and Mark Thomas, HEC Paris MBA alumni (Class of 2014) and co-founders of Ctrl+P, are proposing.
Ctrl+P is a service that allows students to print at no cost, by forgoing an inch or so of paper-space on their document to banner advertising: a simple idea, with a wealth of potential. Not only does it offer a convenient solution for the students, it provides companies with the opportunity to maximize their exposure to a target demographic. The platform can even be used to target specific student profiles, so that companies can really tailor their content and make the most of their advertising space, be it to drive their sales or to even recruit.
As former students, Justin and Mark came up with the idea after having experienced the considerable expense of printing first-hand. Living in a campus environment was another catalyst, as students usually do not have access to their own personal facilities, especially if they have had to move in from abroad. We sat down with them to find out more about their fledgling business:
What are your immediate plans for Ctrl+P?
Our immediate plans for expansion at the moment are centered around universities in the Paris region. We currently want to focus on schools because we see the segment pain as a low-hanging fruit. More long-term, we feel if we can win France as a country, the possibility is open to try other venues that are more public, or other countries in Europe.
How did studying at HEC Paris help you in this process?
Pursuing our MBAs at HEC Paris has been quite integral to our startup plans – firstly, having a capable co-founder is significant to any venture, and so we were able to meet each other here; secondly, given our plans to launch in France, having access to a network as wide and deep as HEC Paris’ has been valuable in opening a lot of doors for us in terms of finding potential clients as well as soliciting advice.
Start-ups have been prolific recently for their potential for success, but also because of the risks associated with them. What have been some of your main challenges in setting up your business?
Regarding difficulties, our most significant challenge has been the technical product management. As neither of us come from a product background, the learning curve has been steep in terms of keeping development within our intended timeline. However, with the inevitable delays has come a lot of knowledge accumulation that will serve us to move faster going forward.
What motivated you to go into the start-up scene?
We’re both quite keen on business development, especially since we come from financial services-oriented backgrounds – it’s a different experience to go from analysis and advisory to actual execution. Our product, Ctrl+P really excites us as, as we feel we’ve identified a real need that both customers and clients are constantly struggling with. Having said that, we feel the French start-up scene is burgeoning at the moment with activity and the potential to be part of a larger movement is really exciting for us as well.
What is your ultimate goal for the business?
Our goal is to build a start-up that can be expanded across Europe. We see Paris as a great benchmark – if we can successfully scale enough in this city, then we see no reason why our model shouldn’t be applicable anywhere else.