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Top Graduate: The Story of How a Startup Evolves

Top Graduate: The Story of How a Startup Evolves Elisabeth Gourlin

We wanted to be different!” Naoufel’s energy and enthusiasm about his startup was evident from our extensive interview with the men behind Top Graduate. We, from the MCEI team, recently conducted an interview with Christopher Jean and Naoufel Bouali, the Cofounders of the Paris-based startup, Top Graduate. The insightful conversation about how the cofounders met and started their entrepreneurial journey in the summer of 2017, and how the startup has evolved since its early days was filled with a lot of positive energy and passion. It was easy to see the kind of zeal and endeavor necessary to ensure a startup reaches a place where its creators would feel it is going in the right direction.

Christopher and Naoufel met here at the University of Mannheim after they came to Germany as exchange students for their ERASMUS semester while they were pursuing a Master’s degree in Management at Kedge Business School, France. Thanks to the startup-friendly ambience of the city and the university, the inspiration for Top Graduate came quite naturally to the young students as they got to know each other here on campus. They decided to take a plunge and started to further develop on the idea behind Top Graduate keeping in mind the benefits the startup could have on recent graduates and the overall freelance industry. After they developed the first blueprints of the business model for Top Graduate and shared it on campus, they realized the idea was well received among peers and startup enthusiasts within the university as well as the MCEI team. This helped them get started on implementing their ideas and finally kick off the business in the German market.

The business model of Top Graduate today has greatly evolved from the initial ideas of its creators at its inception. Originally their plan was to connect graduating students with different kinds of graduate trainee programs at different companies. However, they soon realized from feedback received from students that it would be difficult to turn this into a profitable business because students would not be interested in paying for information they are usually already following closely. They soon assessed different kinds of ideas all surrounding the vision of supporting graduating students to find their dream job. One of their other ideas was to connect students with managers from companies in different industries with hiring capabilities so that students could network with them and get tips on how they could find a suitable position or groom themselves in a way that they could increase their chances of finding their desired role there. Eventually they settled on the idea of pushing employability of graduating students in various freelancing positions in companies in a way that matches specific skills to specific roles in different companies, such as sales, marketing, web design, operational functional support, etc.

With a self-funded website they began their entrepreneurial journey and turned their work into a project at the University of Mannheim in one of the courses organized by MCEI. The young entrepreneurs looked back on those days and highlighted how the role of MCEI was instrumental in inspiring them to get on this journey and in shaping their business model later on.

The Paris based startup found some support from the French government and was incubated by Business Nursery (Kedge Marseille), Pépite France and Station F. With 7 members now in their team, they are continuously looking for talent to join their company, also especially because they are looking to use the same business model in other markets in the near future. With a vision to benefit recent graduates and graduating students and to help them connect their skills with potential employers, the Top Graduate team is very optimistic about the strategies they have undertaken and has an excellent team to back up their ongoing projects.

As we started wrapping up our insightful interview with the cofounders, they leave behind an important message for young students interested on an entrepreneurial pursuit, that of being open-minded about embracing changes to an initially planned business model. A business is progressive and can change in fundamental ways without compromising the overall vision it started with, and that is what the cofounders of Top Graduate, Christopher and Naoufel, show us with their dynamic entrepreneurial journey.

If you are interested in subscribing as a freelancer on the Top Graduate portal, use this link to register yourself At the moment, the roles are specific to the French market, but roles from the German market will soon be added here.


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  • University of Mannheim
  • Institut für Mittelstandsforschung
  • Gründerverbund
  • ESF
  • Europäische Union
  • Baden-Württemberg - Ministerium für Finanzen und Wirtschaft
  • Absolventum