Thanks to all the press embracing technology, the movie the Social Network and the emergence of the consumer web and mobile apps, entrepreneurship is in the spotlight again. With that comes the interest and excitement of students in college. You can see it on all the campuses around Boston as seemingly every school has an entrepreneurship club, a startup mentoring program and hackfests. These programs do everything from inspiring new entrepreneurs to coaching them through their first venture.
The problem is, the odds of you being the next Mark Zuckerberg, Bill Clerico, or Aaron Levie is statistically insignificant. What's more likely is that you can lay a foundation in college for an amazing career as an entrepreneur that later in life becomes a successful founder. Here's a few tips for making the most of college to prepare for being a great entrepreneur.
When you start a company, you are usually in one of two camps: a veteran who has worked at multiple startups and knows the monster challenge you're up against OR a first timer who has limited startup experience but an abundance of passion for the idea you want to solve. In both cases, there's always a lot to learn, but for the strength and vitality of an ecosystem, it's particularly important how we handle educating the first timers.
Boston has a habit of being a cynical town. We love our hard data and empirical proof. We sometimes dwell more on what's not working than what does. This can often help improve your product, your environment or yourself, but as Rob May so accutely noted, it can be even more beneficial to push harder on what is working.
Looking around the Boston startup community, there's much to be positive about. It's just hiding under the surface and not being highlighted nearly as much as our deficiencies lately.
Here at Greenhorn Connect, we're all about empowering the community, so since no single person could hope to know all the good things happening in town, I'm asking for your help in building a list of things to celebrate and be proud of in our ecosystem.
In the Sunday Globe this week, Scott Kirsner posed the question, "Does Boston Have Too Many Startups?" The article seemed to try to make the argument that all our little startups should just be employees at bigger startups (disregarding how bigger startups, start out...).
The article is really best summed up in the quote in the article by Craig Driscoll, "companies that hope to grow need to do more than complain about how tight the talent market is." I find it fitting that coincidentally, Ryan Durkin, COO of CampusLive (and mentee of Mr. Driscoll as a Highland Capital portfolio company) writes about attracting talent today.
Watching the startup world evolve over the past couple of years, I've noticed an interesting trend. Despite all our improvements and changes over this time, New York has drawn most of the attention after the omnipresent Silicon Valley. Like the entertaining comedian of the '80s and '90s, it seems we've become akin to Rodney Dangerfield (best known for his standup and role in Caddyshack): we get no respect.
One of the challenges every startup faces is not enough time to get everything done. There's always more you wish you could do. Especially in the early stages, you're particularly resource constrained, which means that getting more done, faster, is essential. In talking with a friend earlier this week, I shared some tips that I've found help me get things done.
In our interconnected world, you can start a company anywhere. (If you're reading this post, there's a great chance you're a local Boston entrepreneur, so cheers!) Wherever you locate your company, you shouldn't have concrete feet. You can do a lot of good for your company by not only getting outside the building of your startup, but occassionally getting outside your ecosystem you're in. That means being Tri-Coastal.
In startups, it's all about the team. Ideas change, business models change and even roles can change, but the hope is that you can build a core team that is lasting. From the first step of finding a good co-founder to adding key members to your early team, it's a good idea to have a framework for what you're looking for. What I look for are the 3 C's: Chemistry, Competence and Customer Focus.
How do you attract a technical cofounder? What does it take to be a good business cofounder? How do you get your idea off the ground and make some progress without spending a lot of time coding? These are all questions a Northeastern student emailed me about earlier this week.
So what can you do? Luckily, in the world of the web today, there are many tools, tips and tricks out there that can help.
We all get them. Those emails that make you cringe, just a little. Some brand new entrepreneur emails you for help. You're busy and you're not sure you're the right person to help. They seem like they lack even some of the most basic knowledge to get started. But they're asking you for help...probably hoping for a meeting or maybe an intro to a trusted contact.
In Boston, we have a habit of just wanting to click the delete button on such messages, or simply declining citing a desire to "focus on my startup" right now or just not being "the right person." We can do better than that. If you really can't take the meeting, let's leave each of these new entrepreneurs pointed in the right direction. The Boston Startup Guide is here to help you do that.
In Part I, we're covering what to do when a new entrepreneur is looking for funding and is likely not really ready for funding. There are great things you can point them to and we're going to share them with you so you can copy and paste them in your next message, so you can say still help them even if you can't take that meeting.