Enterprise Fellows Interview with Dr Ti Xu
10 February 2022
Dr Ti Xu (MPLS Enterprise & Innovation Fellow 2019-21) is the Co-founder of StudyStream, a 24/7 study platform and social media company for students worldwide to study and connect. Ti has a Bachelors in Physics from New York University, and a DPhil in Physics from the University of Oxford, where he studied from 2013-17. After his time as an MPLS Enterprise Fellow, Ti founded StudyStream with co-founders Erfan Soliman and Sarujan Ranjan and took it through the prestigious Y-Combinator startup accelerator programme. To date, the StudyStream platform has helped more than 4 million students in 180 countries to be more productive, connected and motivated.
Tell us a little about yourself, and your path to entrepreneurship
Well, my path to being entrepreneurial certainly hasn’t been a conventional one! I spent eight years studying Physics. My scholarship was partially funded by a London-based hedge fund, and that gave me an introduction to the world of high finance, which for a time I was very drawn by, and I was considering exploring that world professionally. But I also became interested in industries and companies, what they were doing and how they were operating and changing. A few cherished mentors advised me to explore the enterprise side of things before I jumped into a finance career, so that’s what I did. And I haven’t looked back.
After I finished my DPhil, I did the Healthcare Innovations Fellowship in Biodesign, which is a really exciting EIT Health programme that brings together clinicians with engineers, physicists and computer scientists to create viable, fundable companies. And that’s where I met my two co-founders. Although we started in the digital healthcare space, we soon realised that we were all really passionate about education, and solving challenges in that space. I had previously founded an education company, and was doing a bit of teaching on the side, and prior to the pandemic we had been running around Europe giving courses to high school students, so StudyStream was born out of that. And of course the pandemic meant that online delivery of education and supporting resources became the norm very quickly, so we worked with that, and built on it to create something that people find very easy, fun and intuitive to use.
What have been the most significant events or realisations for you on your entrepreneurial journey?
In terms of tangible value, the fact that I met my two StudyStream co-founders during my time at Oxford has absolutely been the biggest and most valuable thing so far for me. The right people at the right time in the right place. I’m really proud of my team and have confidence that we’ll do something impactful. And then the less tangible learning for me has been the emphasis on making sure you find the right challenge or problem to address. As obvious as it sounds, you’ve got to make something that people really want, and to do that you have to make sure that you’re focusing on the right problem, as that’s where you create clear value.
What do you want your long term impact to be?
Well, I feel like we are already making it happen! We could not have predicted how the global student community would adopt and embrace StudyStream. It really has helped people feel less isolated through the toughest period of the Coronavirus pandemic, and some great friendships and relationships have been forged across countries and continents. We’ve had community members making the journey from Singapore to Norway, and crossing Europe to meet up, and students sharing how they’ve managed to find even romance and love through the platform. It’s become more than just a study tool - it’s a global network of support and human connection. We are all very proud of how it’s evolved, and of the way that our community is showing us how they want to interact and connect.
Exciting plans for 2022?
We raised our SAFE round back in May 2021. With a bit of luck we’ll finalize our first priced round by February 2022. At this point we’re well financed and excited to take as many ‘shots on goal’ as we can to find true product market fit. Talk to me again in 12 months and hopefully I’ll have a positive update for you then!