For the past decade, magazines from Fortune to Forbes have reported an increase in entrepreneurially-minded young people. It seems that 2016 is the perfect storm for the young professional to venture into the startup world. A combination of the household name status of tech moguls like Zuckerberg, the glamorizing of Silicon Valley through movies and reality shows, and a lagging economy in which a college degree just isn’t enough, has resulted in a generation of young professionals with tech dreams. However, there is a disconnect between the number of students who dream of starting a tech company and those who actually achieve that feat.
Like many of his peers, Mitch Masia had a similar goal of entrepreneurial success coming into college.
“There are so many rules and regulations in the corporate world, and it can move so slowly that you get trapped in a cycle,” he said about his decision to become an entrepreneur early on. “I always wanted to do something for myself and have the freedom to pursue my own dreams instead of helping someone else achieve theirs.”
Unlike many of his peers, Masia followed through. He is the CEO and chief technology officer for Taskloop, a service that lets college students outsource tasks to other students at that campus. On the consumer side, users can choose whatever service they want and the price, and on the customer side, users can decide whether or not they would like to perform the task. The app launched at the Taskloop team’s alma mater, Vanderbilt University in spring 2016, and has since made its way to Tulane University, Indiana University and the University of Illinois. The founder of the company, Vanderbilt senior Justin Riele, conceived the idea for the product; the leadership team also includes William Doran and Connor Smith, who are also set to graduate from Vanderbilt soon.
We spoke to Masia about Taskloop’s growth and his personal takeaways from the experience. There were three main nuggets of advice that any student interested in entrepreneurship should hear.
Acquire the skills
As a computer engineering major at Vanderbilt, Masia clearly had the technical skill to back the team’s ideas. However, a CS degree isn’t the only harbinger of success. He says that as a CS major, you get stuck learning a lot of in-depth computer science and theory-oriented ideas. Online, you learn the practical skills. You can learn how to create different components of the app, but might not know why it works the way you would in a traditional computer science classroom.
If you don’t know how to build your app, start with a prototyping site like Invision or Bubble. This way, you can create a preliminary design for your application to attract a team with the skills to see the vision through. For Masia, it wasn’t a matter of convincing a team to get on board with Taskloop. The people who wanted to be involved came to him because the idea spoke for itself.
Utilize Your Network
College students have one huge advantage over adult entrepreneurs—support. From professors to alumni to local entrepreneur support networks, there are plenty of opportunities for assistance along the way. People want to support young entrepreneurs, especially those in college.
Take advantage of that access and support by joining or starting a school entrepreneurial network, forming partnerships with your college’s business school, or reaching out to professors and alumni.
Dive Right In.
By far, the most important attribute for a young entrepreneur is the drive and the risk-taking spirit. Many think that it is necessary to have a job before trying to create them, but Masia thinks otherwise.
“In college, you have more time than you’ll ever have,” he says, “it’s just a matter of being deliberate with that time and not just wishing that (your goals) will come true.” This may mean sacrificing some time that would be spent doing “normal” student activities like going out and getting involved in many student organizations. But by focusing that time on reaching goals, one has all the more chance of achieving their goals.