From startup to scale-up | Let's Talk BD Podcast Ep.8

August 29, 2022
From startup to scale-up | Let's Talk BD Podcast Ep.8

How can you turn your startup into a scale-up? Edwin van Rest, founder of StudyPortals shares his perspective on how to make a business go global.


What starts out as an inspiration can turn into a life-changing business. That’s a brief description of the majority of global businesses today. But, when we discuss the process of getting there, it’s never that simple. Growing a startup into a bigger enterprise is a bumpy road with problems and challenges we may not always know how to tackle properly.

This is the story of our guest, Edwin van Rest, in the 8th episode of the Let’s Talk BD Podcast. Edwin is the co-founder and Chief Opportunities Officer at StudyPortals. The company’s mission is to change millions of lives through educational opportunities. And to empower aspiring students to be confident and aware of their studying career options.

In this episode, we talk specifically about Edwin’s startup journey, the mistakes he’s made as a founder, and the moments that have made him proud.

How to grow your company?

Business development is as much about professional as personal growth. Starting your business can be intimidating, uncertain, and many times frustrating. There may be a lack of resources, revenue, or clients despite your daily work. Further, there may be many skills you don’t have and that you need to have.

From time to time, there can also be a lack of motivation, ambition, or collaboration with others. So, that’s why it’s important to see business development as an ongoing interplay between personal and professional development.

Pursuing his studies in Japan taught Edwin the value of international education, equality, and tolerance. This experience would later shape his entrepreneurial journey. Today, Edwin’s career purpose relates to one simple idea: help and inform young students about studying abroad.

Self-development and entrepreneurship

Edwin was one of the main people that started his company with one idea and turned it into a global venture. He mentions that self-improvement affects how you run a business and the direction it follows. Specifically, it’s important to reinvent yourself from time to time if business situations and circumstances require you to.

For example, in the first phases of his business idea coming to life, Edwin saw himself as more of an innovative entrepreneur. Then, he transformed into a businessman. Then, into a startup founder, and eventually a scaleup leader. His responsibilities evolved into having to think more about communication, departments, and hiring a strong management team.

This shows that it’s not only founders who grow a business. It’s important to rely on other people’s expertise such as executives. And to allow them to have the freedom to do their job correctly. In fact, knowing when and what to delegate when it comes to job duties is an essential skill to have in business development.

Startup to scaleup: Lessons and mistakes

Business founders make many mistakes while growing their businesses. When facing failures in your business development journey, you can choose to let them affect you or learn from them. As Edwin mentions:

“It’s not about how often you fall, it’s how you stand up and make yourself better.”

Edwin van Rest

Edwin considers himself to be a fundamental optimist. Dwelling on mistakes for too long isn’t something he prefers doing.

He points out two main mistakes he’s made as an entrepreneur. The first one is not spending enough time on institutionalizing the company culture. The second is expecting young hires to integrate with the company culture straight away.

StudyPortals’ company culture always emphasized internationalism, diversity, and education. But, at first, nothing related to work culture was written down or documented.

Secondly, the onboarding process wasn’t as ideal as expected. For example, new team members were grouped together. This created, what Edwin refers to as: “a sub-culture” within the broader company culture. Later on, they deemed it necessary to bring a clearer understanding of what the company is and what it isn’t for everyone.

Startup to scaleup: Proud moments

Edwin has always believed that his company can change millions of lives in the world for the better day by day.

Today, over 230 million students attend university to make their dreams a reality. However, one billion of them need higher education but lack opportunities. Edwin believes that online education can reduce this number.

One of his proudest moments is helping over 400,000 students with their education. And empowering them to leave their mark in the world. This, of course, shouldn’t be taken solely in a numerical context. But, the fact that education impacts both individual and collective lives.

For Edwin, another prideful moment is the contribution of the team toward the growth of the platform. And watching them make a difference in the world after a few years.

More takeaways:

  • Future goals
  • Self-improvement

Edwin’s career is an excellent example of a success story. But, you can become a successful entrepreneur too!

If you need specific guidance, check our custom training options and take your startup idea to the next level.

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