7 Tips for Balancing College with Your Startup Dreams
an Article from Mashable
BY NELLIE AKALP
Aug 22, 2014
From Steve Jobs to Larry Ellison, Bill Gates and Mark Zuckerberg, some of the world’s most successful founders are college dropouts. In fact, the average net worth of billionaires who dropped out of college is about three times more than the average net worth of billionaires with Ph.D.s ($9.4 billion vs. $3.2 billion).
However, forgoing a diploma isn’t the only option for a budding entrepreneur. It’s possible to launch a startup from your dorm room, and still manage to graduate. You may not become a billionaire, but you will get a ton of real world experience that will help you with your second or third venture. It will also make you a more attractive candidate should you decide to ‘get a real job’ after school.
My husband and I launched our first business while we were still in law school. That was 1997…a time when a college or advanced degree still pretty much guaranteed a good job. These days, many graduates end up back with their parents taking an unpaid internship to get more hands-on experience. In this crowded job market, it’s smarter than ever to get a head start on your entrepreneurial pursuits.
If you are thinking of balancing school and a startup, here are seven tips:
1. Take advantage of university resources
There won’t be another time in your life when you have so
many academic, technical, and advisory resources right at your fingertips. A
professor can be an invaluable mentor. Depending on the target demographic of your
product, fellow classmates represent the perfect beta pool. And there are
numerous entrepreneurial competitions and conferences geared toward students;
here’s a sampling of some of the top business plan competitions for
students that will give you a unique opportunity to find mentors, funding, and
publicity for your idea.
2. Find the right partners
On a university campus, you are surrounded by hundreds of
incredibly bright, energetic and curious people. So how do you go about
assembling the right team for your venture? It might be fun to start a business
with your roommate, but he or she may not necessarily be the right person. Paul
Graham of Y Combinator had some great advice for finding a co-founder:
“I’d look for the people who are not just smart, but incurable builders. Look
for the people who keep starting projects, and finish at least some of them.”
3. Set aside time to work on the business
Your classes, exams, and other coursework are scheduled for
you, but making time for your business requires discipline. Ideally you’ll want
to pick a day or two per week where you and other members of the team all work
together in the same room. Many find it easier to juggle this time commitment
when taking classes that meet once per week for a few hours.
4. Don’t view your studies and startup as mutually exclusive.
Consider the types of coursework that could help you run
your business. For example, if you’re studying engineering, take a few
economics and marketing classes. You don’t need to become an expert in every
field, but exposure to these topics will give you a broader understanding of
what’s needed in the business world.
5. Set your “boat burning” target
What will it take for you and your other co-founders to
leave school and dive in full-time to the startup? 10,000 active users? $500
million in revenue? Seed funding? It’s good to talk about these issues ahead of
time so everyone understands and buys into the game plan. If you and your
co-founder aren’t on the same page, it’s better to discover those differences
6. Don’t be afraid to fail
No matter what type of startup you choose to launch, keep in
mind that most people’s first business ventures don’t succeed. Many fail
miserably, but that hardly makes you a failure. School is one of the best times
to times to give things a try; it becomes harder to take risks when you have a
mortgage and family to consider. With every attempt, you’ll gain valuable
experience and insight into what works and what doesn’t. In fact, a failed
startup could be your best teacher during your school years.
7. Remember that school is expensive
Whether you are taking out loans or your parents are paying
your tuition, school is a massive investment that requires both money and
active participation. Every time you find yourself pulled between classes and
working on your startup, ask yourself which one is most important and which
activity will you learn the most from. If time and time again working on your
startup comes out on top, you might want to think about taking a leave of
absence. School is too expensive to not give it your all.