On Founding a Company Fresh Out of College
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probably do not have a family to take care of and a mortgage to pay. Having these responsibilities adds a lot of pressures and risk.
• Low living expenses. Coming out of college at age 22 like I did, you’re probably used to low standards of living, so you can live on very little. I was flat broke at the end of my senior year, but I wanted to spend all my time trying to get a company started, so I cut my food expenses down drastically (ate a lot of potatoes) and moved into cheaper housing.
• Access to potential team members. Universities have a high concentration of talented and ambitious people. This is a perfect breeding ground for the beginning of a startup team. People also have the freedom to go do a startup, if they’re up for it.
• Ambition. Early in your career, you’ll run through walls to make it happen.
• Fear of what could’ve been. I was compelled to be an entrepreneur. Some call it the “entrepreneurial bug.” I’ve heard other entrepreneurs call it a disease. Whatever it is, I had it. And I knew, if I didn’t try a startup right then, I’d always be thinking about it at whatever job I eventually took.
In hindsight, most of my analysis was correct, although I did overlook a few things. For instance, another advantage of working for a few years before attempting a startup is that team members are able to build up some savings, which can greatly reduce the amount of pressure the team feels. Another thing I could not have fully appreciated without experience, although I have heard it said many times, is just how important having a great team is. In fact, I would now go so far as to say the team is everything.
Whenever you get advice, you have to make the best decision possible for you at that given time. I chose to go for it. But now that I know a lot more and did not achieve the outcome I had hoped for, would I still advise my former self to do the same thing?
I now have an intimate knowledge of doing a startup. You only understand it once you do it. A startup is an emotional process for the founders. When you found a company, you put your name on it, and you view it as a reflection of yourself. I also know how hard it can be. You cannot understand these things without just doing it. Trying to understand building a business through a spreadsheet or a business plan is meaningless by comparison. You have to get your hands dirty to really get it.
In addition to learning about teams and running a business, I also experienced a failure. I think of this as an extremely important experience.
Lastly, I met a ton of phenomenal people. The entrepreneurial community really is a vibrant one—full of people attempting great things and full of some very interesting personalities.
Another startup certainly lies in my future. I am in no hurry, but when I do decide to go back at it, I will be much better equipped, and I will have something to prove. That’s a powerful combination.