Currently viewing the category: "Entrepreneurship"

Why fool yourself into thinking that only conventional ways of finding opportunities will work? Don't you think most successful people try something else?

Today, I had lunch with a buddy I haven’t seen in years.  I knew he was working on a start-up out in San Francisco.  I was curious to learn more.  He and I chatted for an hour and a half.  By the time we were finished, he told me they could “really use someone like me” to help with their start-up, and the he would talk with his business partners to see if there was something I could do to help out.

Coincidence?  Luck?  I think not.

You see, directly in line with my advice about integrating my goals into my daily routine I devote a large amount of my time to finding other entrepreneurs and entrepreneurial opportunities.

At first, I had these grandiose ideas in my mind:

“how could I possibly start a business?  I don’t know of any good opportunities.

I’m not good enough”…the usual downtrodden frames of mind that I have devoted this blog to combatting.

Once I got over that silly though process, I could see that there were a huge number of opportunities already around me.  All I had to do was reach up and grab the fruit.

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Skyscrapers from Hong Kong Harbor. Why wait to work towards success?

To my friends in college, interested in entrepreneurship, I ask:

Have you heard any of these things before?

-”I want to start a business someday, but I should really wait until I have more experience.”

-”A college student?  Starting a business?  What do they know?”

-”Go get a ‘real job’ instead.  The real world awaits.”

You probably think there’s validity to these statements because you do not, in fact, have much experience; and you do, in fact, wonder how someone with little experience could, in fact, be a successful entrepreneur.


That’s what I thought for years.  It kept me from trying to follow my entrepreneurial dreams for years.  Until it hit me:

College is probably the best–and most riskless–time to start mastering entrepreneurship.  Why wait?

We’ve already chatted about succeeding in college for smart and motivated people.  I pointed out that college is one of the most flexible times in our lives and that failure (from taking an interesting and important risk, but not succeeding) has low repercussions now (no kids, few fixed payments, etc.), and the importance of doing things to develop yourself rather than spending time partying or goofing off.

So intuitively, applying the broader concepts we’ve already discussed, entrepreneurship now makes more sense than entrepreneurship later.

But let’s dissect the specific issue of mastering entrepreneurship in college more specifically:

1. Key focus of a college entrepreneur: entrepreneurship for the process, rather than the result- prioritize learning about entrepreneurship over “waiting” for the “greatest idea in the world”.

During college, I got involved with a group of engineers who were designing a sports safety product.  We applied for a grant through Arizona State University.  I was the main man for writing the grant application.

This was the first time I’d written a grant, and I was essentially clueless.  But I spent about 20 hours on the 2-page application, and did the best I could.

Months later, we found out we were unsuccessful.

Soon after that, we applied for another grant, and again it was my job to spearhead the application.  This one was 10 times as difficult: we had to present financial projections, business strategy, market segmentation, etc.

This was entrepreneurship for the process.  It wasn’t so important that we’d been unsuccessful in our grant.  It was that I learned how to write a grant and a business plan in the first place.  

How do you think I’ll do on future ventures, now that I had these 2 tries (and some other ones aside from this) under my belt?

Since I was in college, I could do these kind of things without it being a “big deal” (financially, emotionally, etc.) that we failed.

The bottom line: Even if you think your idea (or an idea you are working on) isn’t the “greatest” thing in the world, or if you think you’re not experienced enough to be successful, why not try anyway?  Use the experience to learn so you can do better next time there is more on the line.

2. Some universities have amazing resources available for aspiring entrepreneurs.

Many universities–such as my university, Arizona State University–place a huge emphasis on student entrepreneurship.  For example, ASU:

a.) Has an entire office complex devoted to student start-ups (SkySong), where start-ups get free office space and mentors.

b.) Has yet another center devoted to mentoring student entrepreneurs in the school’s main building (ChangeMaker Central).

c.) Lots of student entrepreneurship grants, such as the Edson Initiative, Innovation Challenge, and 10,000 Solutions.

Why pass up the change for all of this help?

3. Easy access to mentors.

Imagine life after college: you’re working 40 or 50 hours per week; you have a slew of other responsibilities; you’re swamped. And, it’s tough to meet new people, since you’re at work all of the time.

What’s your current situation?  Not only do you not have the above problems, you are surrounded by people who want to help you.

I’ve spoken with professors–even the dean of my college–about my entrepreneurial ventures.  In general, they’re happy to help, and are quite interested in what you’re doing.

But if you wait until later, it will be a lot harder to get this advantage.

Why not get it now?

Start mastering entrepreneurship now!  Don’t wait until after college.  If your goal is entrepreneurship, why allow yourself to be distracted?

I cover the broader issues associated with entrepreneurship (and success in general)–such as confidence, time management, handling failure, etc.–extensively in this blog.  I recommend reading these:

-The Main Idea (in general, the way that successful and motivated people approach things).

-Understanding Failure (if you really think failing at your college venture is bad–and if you’re holding yourself back because of this fear–read this article).

-Building Personal Credibility (if you think your “lack of experience” makes you ineligible to be an entrepreneur).

-Succeeding in College

-Motivation for Intelligent People

-Monetize Your Passion

 

Photo credit: http://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Hong_Kong_Victoria_Harbor_night.jpg


  • Scaling: An planned approach to growth.

Thsi simple concept tells us to think about how we will act, have a plan, and not try to do too much at once.  Your mom told you to do it when you were a child: “don’t put too much food in your mouth at one time, or you won’t be able to swallow it.”  All good businesses do it to avoid taking on unnecessary risk or failure.

But that’s usually where it stops.  Small children and big businesses both understand scaling better than we do.

Scaling is where your ideas and your current reality merge together; where you consider where you want to be against where you are now.  It’s most useful when your current situation does not naturally allow you to pursue your goals, such as these:

If you work 40 hrs/week for someone else and you want to start a business, how do you make it happen?

If you want to work in China in a few years but currently know no Chinese, how do you make the transition?

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Entrepreneurship is one of my favorite topics.  I have immense respect for the men and women who have developed innovative ideas, taken gargantuan risks, and against all odds, proven and sold a product or service that has made the world a better place.

A perfectly viable entrepreneurial venture.

But entrepreneurship is shrouded in this veil of mysticism, and many people don’t understand it well.  So, we try to start a business and fail, oftentimes because we didn’t understand the process.

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