Marnix Broer is the co-founder and CEO of Studocu, the EdTech platform that helps students around the world excel in their studies. Marnix started the note-sharing website together with friends while still students themselves.
A decade later, Studocu helps 50 million students every month, by making the best study notes and summaries accessible for everyone.
Studocu began in the small Dutch student city of Delft under the Dutch name “Studeersnel” (Study Quickly). In 2010, Marnix Broer and his roomate were frustrated by the amount of time they had to invest in collecting the best summaries, lecture notes, and other study materials when preparing for exams.
They would spend days asking roommates, study friends, and people in the library for resources instead of actually studying. Despite the time-consuming process, they realized how fortunate they were to have such extensive social contacts that led them to high-quality notes.
This realization sparked a discussion about the unfairness of not everyone having access to the same resources. They dreamed of harnessing the power of the internet and crowdsourcing to make it easier for people taking the same classes to help one another by exchanging notes. This idea marked the birth of Studocu.
In those early days, they walked all over the campus with a hard drive, asking people to contribute to the project. Everyone they spoke to was enthusiastic about the idea. Within a week, they had hosted a few thousand course notes online for free, and hundreds of students from their university began using the website. This success motivated them to be more ambitious, aiming to help students in other cities and eventually other countries as well.
After witnessing huge successes in the Netherlands and graduating, they decided to take things more seriously and see if they could build a ‘real company’ out of it. In 2013, the international name Studocu was introduced, and the product was rolled out in Belgium, Spain, and Australia. After seeing initial successes in these countries, their mission became to help all students excel in their studies and in life.
Now, nearly 10 years later, a team of 140 colleagues ensures that 26 million documents are available to higher education students worldwide.
Soon after their international launch, they learned a valuable lesson that they continue to share with their colleagues every day: data is key. In 2014, they began measuring data and A/B testing using Mixpanel. Initially, they were not fully aware of what the tool would bring, but it proved to be one of their most crucial decisions. From that moment, things started moving quickly.
They learned the importance of basing their ideas on data and testing, leading to an iterative process that has taken them a long way and remains part of their daily work. This approach even became one of their core values: Efficiency + Scalability + Data = Success.
Soon after adopting this data-driven approach, they noticed that their growth in new markets outside the Netherlands was slower. They analyzed the data and discovered that foreign students tended to drop out at the point of creating an account. In hindsight, this made sense, as these students were not yet familiar with Studocu.
In the Netherlands, they had already introduced account creation in the user flow, but not from the start. They hadn’t realized they needed to think a few steps back in terms of product development for new markets, and this mistake cost them half a year of growth.
Another challenge they faced more recently was maintaining their company culture. While still a relatively small team, they had a strong, family-like atmosphere. When the pandemic hit and in-person meetings became impossible, they had to get creative to keep the warm team spirit alive.
They managed to do so with small gestures, like personally delivering goody bags to Amsterdam-based colleagues, organizing online challenges and social events like pub quizzes and workshops, and checking in on a regular basis. Although they adapted well, everyone was delighted to return to the office and resume face-to-face interactions.
In the meantime, their team had grown exponentially, and new team members had not experienced the pre-pandemic company culture. Fortunately, they were able to integrate the right steps into their hiring processes to ensure a good company culture fit. This approach has helped them maintain the family-like atmosphere within the team, even with over 140 colleagues at the moment.
An important lesson that Marnix Broer learned personally along the way is the value of perseverance. As a child, he admired entrepreneurs such as bakers, carpenters, and hotel owners.
He noticed that they all worked extremely hard, just like his own parents, who he rarely saw due to their long working hours. This observation instilled a strong work ethic in him. Often, he would choose to work on a project instead of indulging in leisure activities like watching Netflix.
Broer believes that a combination of perseverance and focus is essential for success. If someone wants to excel at something, they should focus on one thing and keep working on it. Only then can they become better than the rest.
This mindset has guided him throughout his journey with Studocu, and the company’s ongoing growth and achievements stand as a testament to the power of perseverance, innovation, and adaptability.