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#FoundersFridays: Meet Estelle Roux

Get to know the story of Estelle Roux, founder of StellarUp (formerly, Mentorjam). Founded in 2020, StellarUp is a community solution that makes it easier for organisations to connect mentors with mentees.

Portrait of Estelle Roux, founder of StellarUp
Image from Estelle Roux

#FoundersFridays is a StartupAmsterdam interview series: for entrepreneurs, by entrepreneurs. Each hero answers questions on their entrepreneurial journey, their learnings, milestones and bottlenecks, as well as on Amsterdam and the Dutch startup scene. It’s a platform for entrepreneurs to speak their minds freely and pass on their learnings to anyone who’s thinking about founding a startup as well.

This month we spoke to Estelle Roux, founder of StellarUp, a community solution that makes it easier than ever for organisations to connect mentors with mentees. Whether you’re an accelerator looking to scale your programme, or a company wanting to offer mentoring as a benefit to employees, StellarUp has the solution you need.

How did your career journey lead you to found StellarUp?

At heart I am a builder and creative thinker. My passion for scale-ups can be traced back as far as my first HR role working for a London based energy company in early 2000. With more than 20 years of experience in international HR, I've since spent most of my career working in IT and banking. 

Entrepreneurship has always fascinated me and “having my own business one day” was something I dreamed about, but never thought would be a reality. Personally, I am deeply passionate about mentoring and community building, and enjoy talking, teaching and training on these topics.

When my co-founder and I started Mentorjam (now StellarUp), we had a clear vision - to give anyone the opportunity to experience the power of mentoring. My HR and his tech background gave us a great foundation to build a very powerful platform.

If you want to connect with me and learn how I can help you build a program in your company or community, or you want to become a mentor yourself - I'd love to hear from you.

What makes Amsterdam a great city and a great ecosystem for a startup founder?

Around the world people refer to Amsterdam as the city of bikes, when it should be the city of entrepreneurs. I have travelled and lived in many places around the world, but have never experienced entrepreneurship as I have in Amsterdam. It really is an exciting city to live in, as you will find someone building something cool around every corner.

You do not have to travel very far to learn that the new coffee cafe on the corner is owned by a local family, or you’ll meet parents on the school playground building an exciting FinTech startup. On top of that, there is the continued support from the Amsterdam startup community, offered to those who do take the risk to follow their dreams. Building a business from the ground up is no easy job, but as an entrepreneur you have access to an amazing ecosystem of support, experts and mentors to help you along your journey.

What are the goals and needs of StellarUp for the upcoming months?

Having successfully over-subscribed in our first fundraising round - which is great - we have now started that process again and will look to close the next round at the end of summer. The rebranding project we completed last year has made a big impact on our overall proposition and sales efforts, and for this year we will continue to ensure that our mission and identity are clear to customers, followers, and potential partners. 

On the product side, launching our multi-language version of the platform at the end of Q1 will see us establishing an even stronger and more dynamic presence in the Netherlands, moving into the German and then Spanish markets. Our development team is sharpening their focus, and there are exciting milestones for them planned in 2023 as part of our product roadmap. These efforts are expected to help StellarUp secure more funding, partnerships, and customers as we continue to grow and develop in the future.

What has been a recent win for your business?

We ended 2022 on a real high - exciting new customers, here and in Germany, doubling our revenue and adding two new members to our team. We were only a few weeks into 2023 - preparing for the launch of two great new features for our customers. Our overarching focus is growth and expansion while perfecting our proposition and pricing. With the addition of new team members, StellarUp is set to continue this momentum throughout the rest of the year, and with such an ambitious and motivated team, we are looking forward to reaching the goals we have set for ourselves. Exciting times lie ahead for StellarUp! 

What has been a recent “challenge” for your business, and what have you learned from it?

I think like most small businesses you are challenged by larger companies with deep pockets when it comes to hiring good talent. We are no exception to this and have had some really painful challenges last year with key staff being poached and then the struggles to rehire. For a small team, big losses like that really set you back a few steps. But, we also learn from this, for sure. We continue to improve our recruitment process, but also those vital people processes that follow. Staying close to our team, having regular 1:1's and providing an environment where everyone feels connected, valued and also listened to is absolutely key.