Francois de Vinols and Koorosh Madani (both BSc Investment and Financial Risk Management, 2013) were best friends from day one at Cass, and have now returned, bringing their innovative coffee cup advertising concept, and using the revenue for the tricky recycling process. We spoke to them about it.
Tell me about your time at Cass!
Francois) We did BSc Investment and Financial Risk Management, and from what I remember everything was really nice – it seems so far away now because we studied from 2010 – 2013! The most important thing is we met on first day Koorosh) and we’ve been best friends since then, F) although we were not necessarily in the same classes. All round it was a great experience.
K) Compared to other students from other Universities we can really differentiate ourselves. Our course was really practical and was so current it was updated with the news, so we quickly learned about all the resources like Bloomberg etc. and all read and used it daily. Students elsewhere, their courses were so academic and theoretical.
K) All courseworks were group coursework, not individual, and that helped a lot with learning and building teamwork.
Teamwork is really important in financial markets; there you have to be able to work with all different crews – so I’d say that’s the main thing Cass taught us. F) I agree!
Do you have a favourite memory?
F) For me it was the Simon Hayley lectures! Accounting in the first year was also good with Charles O’Connor. Simon Hayley was funny but such a hard teacher, so demanding! I loved him!
K) I think the most memorable time was during exams, everyone together in the library trying to help each other. That’s what I liked the most, when we could join together and help each other out. I agree that the most useful lectures were from Simon Hayley – he taught the Bible in the Industry: Derivatives Trading and Hedging.
What did you do next?
F) I went to do a Masters in the History of International Relations at LSE, so something completely different! I really wanted to change from finance to a degree where you read and write – write papers and a thesis and engage with teachers. I learned about diplomacy and the history of Iran. It was completely different, not practical but to do with thinking. It developed and trained my brain to be so analytical and to stop facile thoughts of right, wrong, black, white. It allowed me to understand how complex things are in history.
K) My time after Cass was hefty ordeal. I’m Iranian and at this time there were financial sanctions on the country. I had an offer to study Financial Management at Cass and Imperial College, but my education funds were blocked, so I had to reject the offer and join the family business, focusing on business development.
How did the idea for Cup the Market come about?
F) I had the idea to put adverts on coffee paper cups back in October 2014, which is a long time ago! Then a year ago in October 2015 I told Koroosh let’s form a company to do this, and there was lots of excitement that night. K) How it happened was we went for a burger and then to Cavendish Square – he said cups are plan let’s put ads on them – imagine our cups at exhibitions, airports, Universities! F) The idea was discussed then and Cup the Market was established.
So what exactly is Cup the Market?
F) Cup the Market is about taking the white space cup and turning it in to advertising space and using the cup to reach people. We want to make the cups more effective for advertising campaigns and then to use the revenue to recycle the cups. K) The idea on its own is not new; lots has been done already and it’s been an ongoing process in the UK and Australia but none of them focus on recycling. We want to be different. Recycling is big at the moment in the UK – these plastic-coated paper cups are recyclable but usually there are insufficient means for them to be recycled. We want to implement with current students first because they are the future consumers.
What’s been the biggest challenge?
F) Really it’s getting access to the right people in the right place, both in companies and in universities. More specifically, reaching the people in the company that deal with the marketing. For example if you want Ocado or Deliveroo or Bloomberg, you need to find the right person, and then discuss it with them. We’ve been working a lot with Cass and there are lots of meetings and lots of people involved. So the challenge is to find the decision maker and, especially somewhere like a University, it takes time and many people have a say.
K) It is more complex when you have to promote your business without having a portfolio of clients – so we are expanding our network to cooperate with industry leaders. That’s one of the factors as well, building that platform of trust. Trust can create a much faster process and avoid many costs involved in any business.
What is next for you?
K) We are in contact with several Universities, so hopefully we will be launching soon in Universities around London, and in cafes near those Universities. We are also focussing on cafes in CBDs or areas with a lot of congestion. Although we want to start with students we are really looking to target the whole public to raise funds to recycle.
Do you have any advice for budding entrepreneurs?
F) I have two things. The first is to make sure you start with someone you trust, and the second is that when you plan something in terms of time, double it! Things take a lot of time.
K) I’d say do your research. Market research is essential so that you can know your product, the market and your target audience. It will also highlight if you’re the right person for that, because many people get into stuff they are not made for. And planning – I say failing to plan is planning to fail. You need that plan in front of you so you can get to your objective faster. F) Most important is to know the answer to the “Why?” question.
Finally, it’s the quick-fire question round!
Favourite place in London: F) Thames Rowing Club K) South Ken
Favourite holiday destination: F) Italy K) Sardinia
Must-check every day website: F) Soundcloud K) BBC Persia and the FT
Dream travel destination: F) Iran K) South Pole
Cheese or chocolate: F) Chocolate K) Cheese (pauses for a half-second)… Let’s make chocolate cheesecake!