From starting my entrepreneurial journey in college and then dropping out to chase my dreams, what I learned is that college is the best place to start-up. And while people have conflicting opinions about the combination of college and entrepreneurship, here’s what I learned from living the life of an entrepreneur into college.
I have always hated simple old academia and the idea of spending time into something that I am never gonna use in life. And above that I had Civil Engineering majors, subjects that I had totally lost interest by the end of semester one. The college had stern ’Switching Majors’ rules with good CGPA. That didn’t help in my case either. What was really amazing was that college gave me a whole new level of exposure and I stopped caring about my grades like in school. And tried to find out what I really wanna do in life. And soon enough I decided I wanted to be an entrepreneur adding my creation to the world and creating a change and my ‘Big Idea’ was A PORTABLE WASHING MACHINE (VORTEX).
Once I had this idea, next was, endless hours of work developing the product, and there are a million ways being in college helped me. To name a few.
The best resources at your arm’s reach
The college internet server allowed free student access to almost all the research paper publishers online. And I managed to get full and 24/7 access to the laboratory where I built the machine. That also included 3D printing of 3 prototypes. These equipments and information for building a complex electromechanical device costs $15,000-$20,000 (Calculated from the quotations of prototypes we built after dropping out).
One of the most important challenge in any business is to find the right co-founders and build the team. And while some may argue that it can be decided based on ‘Who complements my expertise and responsibilities’ basis, I think having friends as co-founders is very important. Not only because friends understand each other and know each other’s strengths and weaknesses, but also because when things are tough and the understanding between the partners is put to test, friends are definitely more likely to stick together and make it through.
The Buddy Advantage
Building a portable washing machine while in college is not ‘You got an idea, made a few calls, spent a few thousand dollars to get professionals to work for you and voila!!’ Taking it from an idea to a product needed concept development, multiple iterations of 3D modeling, building the circuitry. And while me and my Cofounders are good with a part of all this. There are many things that we got our fellow students to do. Some were friends, some became friends and the others we had to pay.(Far lesser than we would have had to pay for professionals) . And there’s no way we could have ever reached our first prototype (at least at that budget and timeline) without our friends who at times readily missed their classes to work on the project. All this work outside of college would have costed us an extra $12000-$15000.
The Professors go above and beyond to help if you are hustling
Here’s the thing, Profs lecturing in classrooms are as boring as it gets, but if they get to know that someone in their class is busy building something useful and not just partying, they doubtlessly become the first mentors who go above and beyond to help you build your product. Now getting qualified experts to work on improving and perfecting your products not only is valuable but priceless. There is no tangible way to calculate what that would have costed me outside of college.
The College Incubation Cell Advantage
After building the first prototype, the big question was PATENT. But being students and after having to pay people out of whatever ways we got money from to get work done. There was no way we could have paid for the Patents. But since we were in college there was a solution. ‘The Incubation Cell’. It paid entirely for the Patents and even arranged for press coverage and connected us to a few seed investors. All this would cost us $6000-$10000 if we were not in college.
The beta testers and first few customers
Beta testing for a portable washing machine can be really tricky, but one of our main target market segments was college students who live away from their homes in small college dorms. We did rigorous beta testing of vortex, completely free of cost. We had 3 units of the prototype which we gave to 3 students who used it for 3 days and got back to us with their feedback. This testing and re-iteration could have costed us at least $7000- $10,000 outside of college.
The alumni support
The college alumnus were really excited to hear that a bunch of guys from their Alma Mater are creating something that aims to help make the world a better place and solve problems. They were among our first early backers, angel investors and mentors.
Everyone around, genuinely wants to help, for nothing in return
When you build something while in college, everyone around is excited to be a part of it and it takes a bit of persuading, but everyone helps just to be a part of it. And without any collateral greed where they want something in return. Be it the profs, fellow students, alumnus or incubators. Everyone pushes you to do better, to be at your best. That’s impossible to find in the outside world. Outside the college, if you wanna get something done, you gotta pay a price and that too a pretty steep one. In the outside world there are people ready to tear you apart just to reach ahead of you.
Best place to build and train yourself for being an entrepreneur
Entrepreneurship is about repeated cycles of ‘Trying-Failing-Learning-Moving ahead’. The security of being in college is like a beta mode of being an entrepreneur where there is much more room for making a mistake and learning from it. Every mistake doesn’t become a threat to the existence of your business. That is very very important for an entrepreneur who is just starting out and has a lot to learn before he matures and becomes capable to face the brutality of the beehive.
Taking any venture, from a prototype built by 3 co-founders to a real business needs connections. Every aspects of effectively scaling the business needs you to build the connections. If you do not happen to be ‘Born in the Valley’ or ‘The son of a Business Magnate’ The network and introductions from college alumnus and incubation cell members can be a real boost.
I believe the best way to learn is to ‘Learn from Other’s Experience’. Share experiences and lessons from your life as an entrepreneur and any problem that you are facing in the comments.
Also, Don’t forget to Share the knowledge. Share to help others grow.
See you next time.