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7 Reasons to Start a Company While in School

Rockstar career trajectories aren’t about playing it safe. Luckily if you’re in school, starting a business might be the smartest risk-free career move you could make. As a graduate student by day and the co-founder of a social wishlist startup, Present Bee by night, here are my top 7 reasons for starting a company while in school:

1. Access to important & influential people. Colleges are a hotbed of potential advisors. Professors in technology, marketing, law, communication, accounting and management collectively hold an incredible wealth of knowledge. More importantly, they actually enjoy helping out motivated students wanting to start companies. Not to mention that it is part of the reason they went into academia in the first place! You’ll constantly be amazed at how willing they are to tap into their expertise & deep networks to help put you and your startup on the right path.

2. Resources, resources, resources. Free WiFi, superior computer labs, heavily discounted student software, copy and fax machines, scanners, printers, meeting rooms, conference facilities, amazing library material that you’ll have to give up your first born to afford when you leave school…need I say more? Universities are some of the most technologically connected places and almost any resource you’d need to start a business is available right in front of you at a fraction of what it costs out in the real world. You’re paying for these resources in tuition and student fees anyway, so why not take full advantage of it?

3. Huge market research/customer/employee base you can lure with pizza. Your friends, friends of friends and even their friends all want to help you. Pick their brains on the products and services they like, get them to test your product, give you invaluable feedback and even get them to become loyal customers. Sometimes all you’d have to offer them in return is free pizza or muffins. Also, if you’re looking for help with your startup, there’s no better place to be than on a college campus. Colleges are filled with bright young people who are eager to learn & gain new experiences through [poorly-paid or mostly unpaid] internships that help them fill their resume. Look around you in your classes – your co-founder or first employee might be sitting right next to you.

4. Student loans are not as expensive as having a family & a mortgage. Now is the time to take financial risks with potentially large payoffs. Even if your startup fails, which it probably will, you’re young and you can move on more quickly from being broke than when you have to support kids, a spouse and recurring payments on your house.

5. Time. School has flexible timing – you can pick your class schedule of choice every semester/quarter. You can stack all classes in two days or have them all in the evening if you want, which would then give you a lot of free time to start and run a business. Going out into the real world after graduation means your time suddenly becomes very restricted. You’re expected to spend 40 hours (or more in most cases) rooted in your office seat and will only be able to work on your startup in your spare time, which may not be much.

6. Don’t let schooling interfere with your education. Yes, Mark Twain said that and you should definitely listen to him. Schools teach you a lot of interesting things but there’s also a host of topics that they don’t even begin to cover. Startups can definitely help you fill that gap. Some valuable lessons I’ve learned through Startup 101 – how to get people (other than your mother) to use your product, how to work 20 hour days with people in one room and not kill each other, how to build a realistic financial model that isn’t limited to looking pretty in Excel and many other gems. Also, if you’re unsure whether you’d like to run your own company after graduation, the best way to find out is to start one while you’re in school.

7. Entrepreneurship is sexy. When you’re asked to introduce yourself, the line “I started a company” never gets old. Enough said.

To close, let me quote Marc Andreessen, the founder of Netscape, investor, startup coach and all-round extraordinaire:

Start your own company. If your startup fails, try another one. If that one fails, get back into a high-growth company to reset your resume and get more skills and experiences. Then start another company. Repeat as necessary until you change the world.

Also check out a classic talk from Paul Graham, the founder of Y Combinator, on Why to Not Not Start a Startup. I’d like to hear from you student (and non-student) entrepreneurs out there – what’s the most interesting reason you’ve started a company?

Editor’s Note: This article was written by Swathy Prithivi. She is a graduate student at Northwestern University in the Integrated Marketing Communication (IMC) program and will be launching her social wishlist startup, Present Bee at the end of summer. You can sign up to get a beta user invite at PresentBee.com and follow her on Twitter at: @swathyprithivi.

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About the Author
swathy@u.northwestern.edu'

Swathy is a guest blogger for Tech Cocktail and runs Corporate Development at Sonim Technologies. She is fascinated by startups, business and anything technology related. Follow her on Twitter at @swathyprithivi.

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6 Responses to “7 Reasons to Start a Company While in School”

  1. denbaranov@gmail.com'

    Denis Baranov

    Re: resources. Technically, it is a violation of most EULAs to use academic-licensed software to build companies. Also, many schools prohibit using their facilities & resources for non-school-related activities (though the degree of enforcement varies).

  2. csell@eccoliving.com'

    Chris

    This article really strikes a chord with me. A lot of people, including myself at times, look at college as preparing for the life they will lead in subsequent years. There is nothing wrong with that of course. But, you can easily flip that thinking on its head as this article does. College is the time when you have very few responsibilities, a ton of resources, and many experienced profs to help you out. It's almost the best time to give entrepreneurship a shot.

  3. laurenleealt@gmail.com'

    Lauren Alt

    I was very excited when I stumbled across this post. I am itching to start my own company and I graduate in December. I have been advocating to my friends about the tremendous opportunity we have right now, while in school. Denis Baranaov, has a good point about using academic-licensed software for non-school activities, but I would argue that it is part of my "education" to use this software to experiment with freelance opportunities.
    I have covered by back since, then, and bought full versions of the adobe suite, etc. just in case.
    Thanks for this post, I'm encouraged.
    Lauren Alt
    Facebook.com/laurenalt
    Twitter.com/creativeL
    Linkedin.com/laurenalt

  4. shariq.ashraf@sbs.ox.ac.uk'

    SwiftDeath

    I really wish I'd read this article, or articles like this, a year ago, when I was still in the MBA.
    Denis is right, a lot of universities have restrictions on students using academic materials and school resources for commercial purposes, but at the same time most of them encourage it through incubation programs, and in return ask for some stake in the business, which is generally a good thing, because there's nothing better than getting a university interested in wanting to make your business succeed.

    Thank you for this post. I guess its never too late to start!

  5. noemail@intensedebate.com'

    Pr@shanth

    Its realy facinating & drives the energy to peak as we move on to each line of this article. Its like know the car & drive it else have the driver or the least one is use public transport. I meant driving our lifestyle with wide varitey of opportunity either you be the accountability or u make others boss. I belive in the second one although its much costly it gives enough time to think cooly & get the show done at the back seat.

    Pretty much its the right time to start with. All the very best.

  6. hegler8176@gmail.com'

    Agustina Alcaraz

    Hi! I’m at work browsing your blog from my new iphone! Just wanted to say I love reading your blog and look forward to all your posts! Carry on the great work!

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