Post by Derrick Yick, BizInc Intern
I came into the startup game a little ‘late’ in my life. Three years ago, I decided to launch my first startup with my best friend from way back in grade school. That didn’t last long. Three failed startups and an Ivey MBA later, here I am, broke but loving my life as a founder of my 4th startup, FamilyTales.
If I could travel back in time, I would tell the 18-year-old Ramli to launch a startup while still in school. At that time, startups weren’t sexy; no one listed ‘co-founder’ as their title on LinkedIn. YouTube and Facebook were just new kids on the block. I would have still told the young me to launch a startup. Here are five reasons why if I could go back, I would have launched a startup in school:
1) You’ve got nothing to lose
As John Pollock of BizInc said, students (hopefully) don’t have a mortgage and people who depend on them. If your startup fails, you have many options. You can find a job. You can move back in with your folks. You can go study. This is much harder when you’re 30-something and have a mortgage, a spouse or a kid.
2) There’s money for students!
Ian Haase of Tech Alliance makes a good point that if you are seeking funding for a fledgling company, there are numerous government programs these days that support student entrepreneurs. Most of these programs are only available to you if you’re a full time student. It may take a few months to apply for and receive the funds (if you are successful). In order to hit the ground running upon graduation, you should start thinking about these things well in advance to avoid delays.
3) The best learning opportunity
I’ve worked in big multi-million dollar companies and I’ve worked in my own startup. Let me tell you that not only is it the most fun I’ve had working on my own startup, it’s the best learning experience of my life. School teaches you theory. Corporate jobs teach you mostly company-specific knowledge. Startups will kick your ass and send your learning to hyperdrive. You’ll have to learn new things very quickly. If you don’t, you’ll fail. And that just motivates me to learn even faster.
4) You have a great story to tell
I’m a big supporter of the Lean Startup principles. The Lean Startup method forces you to talk to potential customers first before you build anything. The best thing about being a student is that people are more willing to talk to you if you tell them you’re a student. They think that you’re just doing ‘research’ and not trying to sell them anything.
This is exactly what Ali and I did with FamilyTales. Way back then, in a galaxy far, far away, FamilyTales used to be called HaloLane, an online memorial for deceased family members (that’s a blog post worth sharing!). We were able to talk to 8 to 10 funeral homes because we told them that we were students doing business and technology research on the death care industry. It worked!
5) A Supportive Community
The final reason why you should launch a startup now is the supportive startup community. When I graduated from the University of Waterloo just five years ago, MaRS, Communitech, Velocity Garage, Next36, BizInc, and TechAlliance did not exist. Now it seems like a new startup accelerator is popping up everywhere- like weeds! I’m a firm believer that it takes a village to raise a startup. Now with these awesome startup communities, as Ian Haase of TechAlliance said, “leveraging this network for advice and connections is of huge value, and your fellow students are generally willing to help you out”. On top of that, these startup communities, like BizInc, are generally welcoming of student entrepreneurs. As long as you come in humble and willing to learn, they will welcome you with open arms.
Why You Should Launch A Startup Now
Let me leave you with what Colton Hathaway told me when I asked him for his perspective on student entrepreneurs. Colton was elected by Apple as one of their top 150 student developers, was invited to WWDC in San Francisco, cofounded Coachd, a mobile fitness company that was accepted into Hyperdrive by Communitech, and now leads a creative digital media agency called Inner Geek Media as the CEO. By the way, did I tell you that he’s only 22 years old and is still studying Software Engineering at Western University? Here’s what he said:
“Life is short, so why haven’t more students focused on building themselves, both personally and professionally? More students need to be challenging themselves beyond the classroom. There are so many opportunities waiting for them, they just need to go out of their comfort zone and grab them.”
What are you waiting for? Get out of the building and launch your startup!
|Ramli John is working on his 4th startup, FamilyTales, which is based in MaRS Commons and Velocity Garage incubator. He’s a University of Waterloo Computer Science and Ivey MBA alum who loves helping other entrepreneurs change the world. He blogs regularly at http://www.RamliJohn.com. Read more about him here.|