Università Cattolica del Sacro Cuore

Cattolica International

The Goin' story: from classroom idea to startup success

Lars Molenaar, Co-founder of Goin' - Connecting your students, has a background in Economics and Law and he has a keen interest in progress and innovations. Lars is a strong believer of just starting to make things happen and is strongly driven by leveraging technology to make societal impact. But most importantly, he wants to enjoy life by surrounding himself with people who energise him.


Could you share the story behind the foundation of Goin' and what inspired you to create a platform dedicated to improving the university onboarding experience for students worldwide?

Cornelis and I were in a classroom with 70% international students and we really saw them struggling before and after arrival. They all had gone through the same steps and were really having to put in efforts to connect. When there were three students from Hamburg who didn't know each other, it seemed odd and easy to resolve. We ran a pilot and then Jessica Winters (head of International Marketing at Utrecht University) came to us and wanted to use it for her admitted students already, as she knows that the best marketing for universities is by giving them a warm welcome. From that moment on, we expanded rapidly.


Goin' emphasises the importance of early social connections for incoming students. Could you elaborate on how your platform specifically facilitates these initial interactions and the impact it has on student satisfaction and retention rates?

On the platform, students are really in the driver's seat to see how they want to make connections. This can be done via one-on-one chats, via groups, via events etc. Also, students can easily navigate the entire university via smart filters. This way, students can find others on very specific criteria, such as Law Students who are also into playing football and want to go to the Gym together. That results into a lot of friendships of course.


Your platform offers a unique approach by creating exclusive, invite-only university environments. How do you ensure these digital spaces remain safe and inclusive, fostering genuine connections among students from diverse backgrounds?

We really stimulate students to keep the conversations positive and talk with respect towards each other. Students also have to accept our Code of Conduct so that they know what the rules are of the community. Also, we have Community Managers who keep an eye on the group conversations. Moreover, students can report and block specific behaviour or content so that we can act on that. Finally, we also even have software that can detect and automatically hide specific words and content. Of course, something could always happen, but this way it can be picked up and the university or we can act on it, which is better than if it's happening on the Big Tech social media platforms where there is little safety.


Feedback from users highlights Goin's role in easing the transition to university life, especially for international students. Can you share some success stories or specific features of the platform that have been particularly effective in supporting students during their move abroad?

Goin' Connect has indeed been instrumental for international students transitioning to university life. For instance, Anastasia from Russia created a running group through the app, which not only helped her meet classmates in Milan but also alleviated feelings of isolation. Dina from Kazakhstan found it invaluable for connecting with fellow countrymen, enhancing her sense of belonging. Moreover, students like Adna from Bosnia appreciate the app for its ease in facilitating new friendships, which enrich their study abroad experience significantly. Katya from Mexico has even built a support network that assists with both academic and logistical queries, like visa processes, which can often be daunting. The app’s community-building feature appears to be a cornerstone in helping students feel more confident and less alone as they navigate this significant life transition.