I started my first company during my senior year of college. It was a mobile app for intracity delivery services, and it ended up failing before going to market. But this venture taught me valuable lessons that I applied later in grad school when I started my second venture, Watson Works. From my experience as a young entrepreneur, I am convinced that college is the best time to start a business. Here’s why:
- Technology: We are entering the 4th Industrial Revolution. This is the digital age where technology is cheaper than ever. Having a laptop with access to the internet is all you need to build an app, program a robot, manage a crowdfunding campaign or 3D print a kidney. Yes, you read that right—and someone already did that. Sensors, networks, virtual reality, robotics and artificial intelligence are some of the technologies that will change the world economy in the next decade. Right now is the best time to learn about these technologies and start building stuff that can turn into businesses. And when else if your life are you going to have unfettered access to such tech tools? That’s right, college.
- Teamwork: You can reach out to your peers in different college departments and team up to participate in business competitions. Great things happen by passionate teams of people with various expertise hustling towards the same vision. I found the team members for my first startup through courses I took during my undergraduate career. First as a computer science drop-out and then as an economics student. After our venture failed, we then moved on to better ventures and opportunities. This failure was the stepping stone to new horizons.
- Mentors: You have access to the masterminds of your faculty members who are often willing to give you advice and work with you in order to see you succeed. You just have to ask and knock on their doors for them to help you. I have received thousands of dollars worth of advice for free by many of my professors. Universities also have access to leaders in their local communities and alumni networks. You can find key mentors for your next endeavor in those circles.
- Experience: Complementing what you learn in class with real-world practice is the best way to learn and grow. You have more opportunities to relate classroom materials with your personal experiences. There is no bad side to building a startup. You either succeed and make money while fixing someone else’s problem, or you fail and have the chance to tell an awesome story while building your resume. Stories are what inspire people to hire you or get you on board for new projects. Company executives respect courage and initiative. I found the investors and business partners for Watson Works through the entrepreneurial community in Savannah. They saw me fail, but they also saw my work ethic and tenacity to keep going.
Building a company is difficult. It takes passion, hard work and sacrifice to make something remarkable. You will be anxious, excited, pumped, frustrated, depressed and many other adjectives that may come to your mind. The only constant in entrepreneurship is change, but that’s what makes it so worthwhile. The ones who win are the ones who persevere to the end and are able to grind through the obstacles and challenges that come with building a business. I hope I was able to convince you to start hustling and join the rising community of entrepreneurs. See you in the field!