Yamin Chalabi

Interview with Yamin Chalabi, CEO of StudentBackr, winner of the people’s choice award for French Fintech Startup of 2015.

 Original interview with Yamin Chalabi from December 28, 2015 for the Fintech Startup of 2015 contest, organized by Finance Innovation, Lunalogic and Hello Idea.

The Fintech theme for 2015 was “Fintech start-ups centered in the future economy”

The Fintech Community annually brings together innovative finance start-ups, investment funds and large financial services companies.


What is your business background? :

My name is Yamin Chalabi, 35, serial entrepreneur, trained engineer and CEO of StudentBackr.com.

I am a graduate of TelecomSud Paris and have a Master’s of Science in Information Systems from the University of Dublin. I have gained a strong knowledge of finance, team management, human resources, project management and education through my 12 years of professional experience at Alcatel and Deloitte in Paris, AXA in New York and planetexpat.org (of which I am co- founder since 2012 ) in Chile.

International projects are a huge passion of mine. This is why I spend a lot of time in the US, Latin America and Europe to develop new projects. I am fluent in 5 languages ​​(French, English, Arabic, Spanish, Portuguese).


How would you describe your startup in 2-3 sentences? :

StudentBackr.com is the first European crowdfunding platform dedicated to students.

StudentBackr gives students an alternative financing option to fund their studies or research projects by utilizing their network to facilitate online donations.

Everyone is free to set their target amount and campaign duration based on their needs and can benefit from the personalized coaching we offer.


How did you come to entrepreneurship? :

The opportunity came when I was working in New York with Sophie Vurpillot (2005 and former ESCP and Standard & Poor’s New York). We both had the same desire to fully take control of our professional future and pursue a socially virtuous path. My passion has always been education, so it was a natural field to develop our business in, with our first project planetexpat.org in 2012 and now Studentbackr.com in 2015. Our goal is to promote access to higher education and to open career prospects for students by giving them the benefits of our network and assisting them with fundraising.

Regarding StudentBackr.com specifically: 12 years of financial experience and 3 years working in the field of education with universities in the USA, France and many other European countries have opened our eyes to a major problem that students universally face: the need for financing.

Today’s generation aspires to make the most of their time in university with fulfilling activities, both curricular and extracurricular. Unfortunately, students are often limited by financial constraints and the need to combine their studies with several part-time jobs. Besides the challenge of having to balance work and school, many students face an even bigger burden with the debt they have amassed through loans.

With the emergence of crowdfunding as the FUTURE of the finance world, it seemed natural to integrate this solution to solve the student debt problem with crowdfunding.


What have been the surprises in your entrepreneurial journey? :

The existence of highly structured and useful networks of entrepreneurs all over the world, that can share good practice and provide support when the pressure rises (fundraising, sales negotiations, legal issues, etc.).

Another suprise was the strong drive and motivation of young people to work for a start-up as well as their daily commitment and amazing team spirit.


Any unpleasant surprises? :

Ironically, the only bad surprise was related our own financing, especially in France.

So far, we have found that it has been easier to get funded internationally (seed investment of 80,000 euros from initial support programs for start-ups in Brazil and Chile) rather than in France, my home country. The rest of our starting seed capital was completed by our personal funds.

We were extremely lucky to have such a strong and supportive international network.

However, the future in France looks promising with the rise of new game-changers, like crowdfunding and crowd-lending plateforms for businesses, helping fund Start-ups and SME . The question is whether our fellow Frenchmen will answer this challenge in the coming years.


Your startup is 100% of your life? :



Any upcoming projects? :

From a personal point of view : one of my personal ambitions in the next 10/15 years is to bring to France the positive risk and investment culture that I experienced in the USA and certain Latin American countries.

And, why not, create a public/private program to support French start-ups.


Inside scoop about you or your startup? :

The Spanish and German versions of StudentBackr.com will be ready soon !!! : )


Pleasant surprises? :

Glad to see the very strong mobilization for StudentBackr! At all levels, we have received tremendous support, praise and encouragement. It’s really been amazing!


Any final words or inputs you want to leave with us? :

It’s only the beginning ; )


The original Yamin Chalabi interview can be found on the website