Entrepreneurship for students I : 11 reasons why you need to start now

The end of your “good life” is tumbling towards you like an avalanche. For 20 odd years you have been living off your parents genetic imperative to feed you. But now that well has dried up, worse still everyone is expecting you to stand on your own feet. I know, I know, if life was fair we could all be mooching off of our parents our whole life. But guess what, life is a female dog. So now you need to get your act together and decide what you’ll do for the rest of your life. Well if you are one of those rare people who have a passion for entrepreneurship, look no further. Just sit back and let me convince you why starting your own business right now is not as crazy as you think it is.

This is going to be part I in a series of articles on entrepreneurship for students like the following….
Entrepreneurship for students I : 11 reasons why you need start now
Entrepreneurship for students II : 11 things to do before you leap
Entrepreneurship for students III : 11 Myths about student entrepreneurship
Entrepreneurship for students IV : 11 things to expect before you leap
and more ……….

First i know there must be a searing question that has been eating you right from the moment you saw the title(and even if it didn’t i bet its eating you now.). Why 11? well the simple reason is im sick of “10 tips” lists all over the internet and im also sick of “12 steps to” programs derived from AA(alcoholics anonymous) framework. So (me + judgement call) = 11 points baby. And also im going to spare you the pretentious jedi bullshit that poorna has been slathering his articles with (“Young padwan”). Don’t tell poorna but he thinks he’s ‘obi wan kenobi’ or ‘yoda’ or something. As for me i have a much better grip on reality and know that the only way is the way of the dark side. So you may refer to me by my title “darth vader”. That’s “Sir Darth” to you poorna. Anyway enough about the ways of the force, let’s get cracking on why you need to start now. First let me give you a preview of what your life is going to be like if your passion is entrepreneurship and you don’t start right now. The non-entrepreneur life cycle…..

Normal Life Cycle

1. Your not getting any younger

This is simultaneously the simplest, stupidest and the most logical reason why you should be getting into entrepreneurship right now. If you want to be in the startup business then its going to be tough on you physically and psychologically and 50 isn’t exactly your most energetic age. And as a general rule the older you are the less likely you’ll be starting a venture. Even paul graham is of the opinion that 20ish is the ideal time for someone to get thier own software startup. Besides my bias towards starting early, many points below will also make the case for starting as early as possible.

2. Ability to live like a hobo(Low Burn Rate)

While we are students we have this unique supernatural ability to live on an almost non existential cash flow. This is the Top ramen, Bathe once a week, what is detergent? lifestyle. But these powers somehow vanish once you become a corporate stooge and start spending heavy and fast on even the basic necessities of life. Water becomes a latte grande, a bus ride becomes 10 gallons of gas(petrol), lays become a ‘power lunch’, your annoying company becomes and ‘expensive date’… so on and so forth. This ability of students to sustain themselves with a very low burn rate over long periods of time becomes indispensable when you are an entrepreneur trying to bootstrap your venture.

3. Golden Handcuffs

I call this pehnomenon ‘the dream killer’. Most wannabe entrepreneurs get drawn into this trap like a moth to a flame. You are a year or so into your job and you have gotten used to your healthy pay check and the amenities it affords you. Even though your job sucks and that’s not what you want to do you still do it to keep your lifestyle going. Wether you work or just pretend to work, you will have a check waiting for you always. Your used to the instant gratification lifestyle and are terrified at the prospect of this stream of income drying up. Which is what will happen if you quit and try to start your own venture. You then fall into this endless circle of wanting to quit of your job, but realizing in the back of your head that you have golden handcuffs on and you dont want to let go of them. So start your venture once you graduate and avoid chasing the carrot they dangle in front of you.

4. Only you get screwed

When you are a fresh graduate and your venture or ventures fail, its you who gets screwed and no one else. But if you fail in the same fashion 10 years later your spouse, your children’s trust funds and all your dependents will feel the impact. As you can see most people have a very small window of opurtunity to fail, from their mid 20’s to their early 30’s beyond which people around them start to bare the brunt of the failure. This is the reason why there are so little first time entreprenuers that start when they have a young family.

5. Can’t loose what you ain’t got

When you begin with nothing(no capital) and try to bootstrap your venture like most young entrepreneurs do, you have little to loose other than your time. On the other hand if you launch a venture after you have been working for a couple of years, more often than not you are going to have a higher intial investment and burn rate. Here the young entrepreneur can afford to fail and as a result is able to tackle high risk high rewards ventures. However when a major investment of capital your own capital is involved high risk ventures don’t exactly seem that attractive. A fresh graduate has better downsides to most ventures than someone who has worked for a couple of years. However they share the same or similar upsides to most ventures.

6. Not constrained by the system

‘Thinking outside the box’ is a popular industry mantra that everyone preacher. But this however becomes difficult to do if you are part(employee) of the system. The tendency of any system is to maintain its inertia and that’s the reason why innovations always seem to come from small groups that are isolated from the system. Do you think larry and sergey would be wanting to build a better search engine if they were working for yahoo. For a student this proverbial “Box” is still just a word. As he/she hasn’t been exposed to a constrained thought process he/she is more likely to come up with an innovative or “out of the box” solution to any problem that might present itself.

7. Diverse options

You are fresh out of college, so what product are you going to build. Well your guess is as good as mine. This is the beauty of being a young entrepreneur. You have the basic skill sets and the ability to make a good product and you can choose any direction you wish based on the market, oppurtunity, know how. If you however have been working for a couple of years for a storage solutions company, we can bet good money that most people can predict which market your venture is going to be aimed at. This is because you are comfortable with your area of expertise and your market and cannot take the chance of venturing into new and unknown markets. Once again the student entrepreneur wins out as far as the sheer number of chances he can take with different markets and products.

8. Fail early fail often

Though few people realize it, failure is a very important part of an entrepreneur’s life. There is no better way to keep you grounded in reality than a failure. The earlier and the more often you fail the better it is. Failures in the early stages wont impact your upcoming projects and products as much, while at the same time providing an invaluble experience. If you are however a late entrepreneur you can’t afford to fail, but that does not mean you are not going to fail. So a student entrepreneur can take many shots while late bloomers get to take only a few.

9. High risk tolerance

As i said earlier the younger and the more bankrupt you are, the more ridiculous your ventures can afford to be. It is often the case that “Great Ideas” look like very “Stupid Ideas” (Scott adams agrees). When steve jobs and steve wozniak went to hp execs with their home built computer they were laughed out of the office citing “Who would ever want a personal computer?” When sergey and larry approached yahoo to tell them they can improve search results the reply they got was “who’s looking for a better search engine? People don’t care.” I bet any VC would be rolling on the floor laughing if you pitched a “Blogging” platform to him some time in 1998. High risk ventures allow you to in rare cases look ahead of the curve and even define the curve in sometimes. As already seen young entrepreneurs have a high risk tolerance and this affords them the latitude to attempt high risk innovations.
10. No more mundane jobs

You definitely dont have to be worried about getting stuck in a job that doesnt challenge and tingle your intellectual and physical potential. When you are a young entrepreneur you are like an entire company onto yourself, so you’ll have tons of work that will allow you to meet your potential and exceed it. You’ll often find that you have skills that you never knew you had(not like flying or laser eye beams). When you compare this to your usual mundane job which seems like an endless cycle of being someone else’s codemonkey, it’s a no brainer which you would be rather doing given the choice. On the oneside you have strobe lights, cubicles and an endless supply of work that doesnt lead anywhere. On the other side passion, challenges, risk and your chance to make the world a better place(atleast for some people, most importantly yourself).

11. Bragging rights

Ok your at a bar, this totally hot chick is sitting next to you. Both you and another unfortunate being make a move on her at the same time. So you have this awkward 3 way discussion going on…

Poor guy: So what do you do?

Hot Chick: Im a model.

You: You mean like a model model, with the swimsuits and everything (drooling)

Hot Chick: Yeah. So what do you guys do?

Poor guy: Well im a project leader for a random MNC with an Obscure Sounding product.

Hot Chick: Really! Interesting, and you?

You: Oh nothing much, Just have a big, large, huge(garage) company of my own with employees(your cofounders and you) and stuff. (Ofcourse she doesn’t know your company doesn’t have revenue yet)

Hot Chick: Really! What do you guys make?

You: you know google? we are in the same business(you make an intranet search application).

…………… and so on while the project leader fades into obscurity. But ofcourse later the hot chick’s boy friend shows up with his ferrari. But for now ur invincible.

And on that note we conclude this installment of student entrepreneurship. We leave with the life cycle of a student entrepreneur. Contrast it with the normal life cycle.

Entrepreneur life cycle

-Suman

PS: Leave comments on the following.

Q1) Does this article series suck?

Q2) Does the extermely orange header image suck?

Q3) Darkside or the jedi way which is the way of the force?

25 Thoughts to “Entrepreneurship for students I : 11 reasons why you need to start now

  1. I somehow felt this one is too biased and too humourous to actually start believing it :D.Entrepreneurship might be good but if you glorify it to such an extent then “poor” “innocent” “jobless” readers like me will start doubting the whole thing. You see we never trust hype 😛

    Waiting for the next article in the series.

  2. Sir Darth
    Good post but i have a vague feeling i have read it all in PGs page. That apart, you must use gimp to compress/reduce the resolution of your images from 3531×500 px when actually you are just showing a thumbnail of about 500 x 40 px image, which actually is quite sufficient to make your point clearly.

    not everyone has the patience or the fortune of a broad band now that they can waste while reading a text article. do keep that in mind and godspeed. may the force be with you.

  3. F**K Ur right. Its almost like paul graham copied me. Ok ok its almost like i copide him, But i swear its been 10 months or more since i read him and that is the reason i only “fuzzy quoted” him on point 1. Anyway who cares there is nothing new under the sun anyway. And paul with his big essays, Damn him, damn him to some place without broadband. Anyway on the broadband issue, i have a very personal revelation for everyone. Im a bigot, i only believe people with 256kbps or above are eligible to read my blog, the others are too slummy for my taste. Heheheh just kidding. The argument for the big big big images is “Quality over Bitrate” my man. Peace Out.

  4. When sergey and larry approached yahoo to tell them they can improve search results the reply they got was “who’s looking for a better search engine?

    Where did u get that from ? I think you should get ur facts right … You risk making a mockery of urself … Or may I do … It a risk I would take … Nice article … loved reading … bring on more … As for the feedback

    Does this article series suck? … Yes …

  5. Hey ankur

    Fact 1: Google approached yahoo
    Google approached david filo in 98: Among those they called on was friend and Yahoo! founder David Filo. Filo agreed that their technology was solid, but encouraged Larry and Sergey to grow the service themselves by starting a search engine company. “When it’s fully developed and scalable,” he told them, “let’s talk again.”
    http://www.google.com/corporate/history.html

    Fact 2: Yahoo rejected google’s proposal several times.(The exact reason for their rejection was not explicitly stated by yahoo, but many in the industry speculated)

    Also, big companies are traditionally slow at recognising emerging disruptive technologies. Remember just a little over four years ago, Google approached Yahoo with their algorithm and was turned away.
    http://orangehues.com/blog/2004/12/google-and-great-mousetrap-fallacy.html

    Page and Brin had the idea to license their PageRank technology to other companies to pay off their credit card debt, but none were interested. David Filo (1966–), another Stanford graduate who had started Yahoo.com, suggested they form a search-engine company.
    http://www.notablebiographies.com/news/Ow-Sh/Page-Larry-and-Brin-Sergey.html

    Everyone who has ever made it to the top has had to endure rejection. In l998, the co-founders of Google approached Yahoo! to suggest a merger. Yahoo rejected them as high-school hacks.
    http://www.printsolutionsmag.com/issues/may05/pres.html

    Page and Brin weren’t interested in building a company around their technology and tried to sell it off in the early days. Yahoo! founder David Filo told them to come back when it was commercialized.
    http://www.salientmarketing.com/seo-resources/search-engine-history/google.html

    Despite the dotcom fever of the day, they had little interest in building their own company around the technology they had developed. Among those called upon was Yahoo! founder and friend David Filo.
    http://www.googlerank.com/ranking/google-history.html

    Yahoo CEO laments not buying Google
    http://news.com.com/2061-10811_3-6071461.html

    You are right about one thing though no one “told them”, or there is not proof to attest the quote. Yey scoreeee, you discovered that i misquoted…….(big deal, i wasnt quoting anyone).
    “who’s looking for a better search engine? People don’t care.”
    But it was the sentiment exhibited by all portal players including yahoo concerning better search technology. So let’s just say i was paraphrasing which im sure most normal readers could gather from my blog entry(this isn’t exactly a newyork times peice), though everyone knows, the actual reason was yahoo being too dismissive of the future of search.

    And i did not realize i was running wikipedia over here. I don’t need to cite my sources, u like it read it, if you think you need properly quoted sources then here is the url.
    http://en.wikipedia.org

    Btw can you more specific about the suckage of the articles.

  6. lol … jesus christ u hv put in quite some efforts here … my apologies I may hv sounded sarcastic but I didnt intend to … I dont intend to start a flame war either … Btw do u guys accomodate articles written by others ? … Do let me know @ my email address if u folks can entertain me …

  7. Hey ankur, no offence meant and taken. And we luv burning people, just note that no comment however derogatory(except ones that dont make any point and are nasty just for the sake of it) will be approved at zerocaffein. We believe very strongly in free speech and freedom of choice. So feel free to diss us when ever we deserve it, and we’ll feel free to diss you back, ignore it or upload an obscene image of one lone finger(hehehe just kidding).Bye and catch you later.

  8. Non-entrepreneur life cycle was pretty funny dude.. did u come up with that? Overall, the whole article was fun to read. Though, some parts made me feel as if I am reading an article about why life without gf is so better than with one:) Anyways on a serious note, I feel you should turn into a entrepreneur only when you have a brilliant idea in which you(and your friends) passionately believe. Passionate to the extent that you become so confident that you don’t even think about failure as a possibility. Unless you have something like that, there is no point starting early. Otherwise get a job. You might hit upon a brilliant business idea later and I am sure age, family, monetary considerations etc won’t stop you from pursuing that idea.

    What do you say?

  9. Hey arjun, thanks for the complement on the non entrepreneur lifecycle(yup i did it). I dont mean to tell you or anyone what they should and shouldn’t do. The bottomline is one should get into entrepreneurship when ever they feel comfortable with. But seems to me our perspectives on what entrepreneurship is might be a little different. And let me explain why many people think the way you do and how i have seen so many of them not taking the leap.
    First and foremost what i gather from your comment is that you feel entrepreneurship is about having a brilliant idea, then following through with the brilliant idea and then making millions off of it. This is the way most people think, the problem i see is there are not that many brilliant ideas around. A lot of my friends in the corporate wage-workers sector often get brilliant ideas but there are obstacles that all brilliant ideas must overcome….
    1) Is it a marketable idea(can you find a market to sell it or will people want to buy it)
    2) Is it a good business idea(does it make sense selling it)
    3) Are there competitors(who have already had such an idea)
    ……………. and many more pages of such questions. This is what i call the reality check of an idea. When most people are trying to construct that brilliant idea they often make positive assumptions about that idea. (if i build that website people will definitely use it). These assumptions are castles in the air until they are validated. So what i am saying in the end is just a brilliant idea is not enough one needs to work on that idea to see wether it will be a good business.
    And this is the reason why people with jobs and wanting to be entrepreneurs get one or more brilliant ideas everyday and yet these ideas self destruct by the next day. For example you think you can pull off a great new web portal or social network site and you are all high when you have the idea until you come to the part of “What next”. At this point most people including me fall flat on thier faces, they have an idea but they dont know how to validate and execute it. They don’t have any idea of the values various important variables like risk, competition, potential customers….. so on take. And i have with my own eyes seen and see talented techies go through this constant painful cycle of Idea, affirmation, reality check and dismissal. The bottom line is ideas are useless unless paired with execution.
    My view of entrepreneurship is slightly different. I feel its a style of living rather than a career title. When you are in the zone you are always looking for oppurtunities, networking, ideas, ways to achieve them. So this is a 24/7 process. The main point here is to not have one big gr8 idea and rake in the bucks(although that would be nice). Here the main point is to work at as many good ideas as is possible so in that way improving your chances of hitting the bigtime. But while making an attempt at the bigtime one must make sure that he has income streams setup with other services or ventures so that they can serve as a launchpad for big projects. For example if you are in your job and have a gr8 idea and think its going to succeed and quit ur job and work at it and it bombs, then you have to goback to a job because of your depleted finances. But if you have a solid financial platform you can be a serial entrepreneur.
    Lastly I totally agree that entrepreneurship is a priviledge and luxury few can afford in this country. First and foremost every student needs to ask himself wether someone is depending on the money he is supposed to bring in. If the answer to that is ‘yes’ then he should better take a job and support his family or what ever because that takes precedence over all else. Only students who feel that he/she is the only person he/she needs to support and that no one depends on him/her can take the leap into entrepreneurship. Phew long comment.

  10. Most of us here, have missed out on a very important point.Fine, we have an idea, we execute it, it hits, its a success, there’s break-even, there’s money…there’s everything at your doorstep now..But what next?Did you plan this success?Were you able to gauge this sucess precisely before planning?Most..most entrepreneurs dont plan this stage, coz this is the stage when they begin loosing out, this success that needs to be planned before even starting up the venture.What will I do with the success i get?How will I invest it to multiply my business?Can a single entrepreneur like me handle this much of success?
    Point to Ponder!

  11. Talkin about failure, yes ofcourse, even the best of ideas can fail, but that is where ‘execution’ comes into play, the eecution is what makes things,makes ideas work!
    Even a very very bad, non-innovaive idea, can reap profits like anything, if and only if it’s executed well.There could be a thousand examples of such ideas.I would give u one of those.You must have heard about Crossword!A normal bookstore, airconditioned like many others, with sections of books like many others, but with sitting spaces to let people read books for free…Most of us would scream at this! What d hell?a bookstore which is supposed to sell books and not a library, still they are allowing free reading?Without even takin a subscription fee?a meagre sum of money?They let their newly published books be touched by kids,oldies,freaks everyone!They might destroy d pages/the matter n so many many risks!What a shitty idea it was!But look at how wonderful the sales figures look now!
    Keep your eyes open my dear entrepreneurs!something, that comes first and goes never!

  12. What I meant ,precisely, I’l explain again with an example.Lets see someone comes up with a restaurant.Puts his heart and soul to it.It does good business and its a hit.An enormous hit, which the entrepreneur hadnt imagined earlier.Now there are pressures of thousand other things say, for example, expansion? How does he expand his business?Nationally? Internationally? or on just on a local level?Should he open Take-Aways? Should he start catering business?Should he begin takin corporate orders? What one has to do with the success , with the surplus, with the goodwill must also become an investment in furthering the business and not just being complacent with the gains.And this certainly needs to be planned, the same time when you begin writing your business plan.

  13. @Akanksha
    I disagree. Setting a general direction is absolutely essential but planning and numbers are.. to put it simply wishful thinking.

    Planning for success is essential. But I disagree with the things about saying what/how do we go after success. Real life entrepreneurship is about everychanging targets and about achieving them with the minimum possible tradeoffs. An entrepreneur must know the direction in which he is heading definitely but a business plan provides as much scope for future as it does through the exit strategies or other methods to grow.

    Business plan is a document-in-progress for a business venture. You need not necessarily have to plan for the future of my success right now. I can on other hand set a general direction for my venture and then update my business plan as the business continues to progress. If we were to preplan the future now itself, it most often than not will be a dump of wishful thinking.

    How about the other scenario where the businessman or whoever is content with not expanding? What if complacency is a choice?

  14. @suman

    I completely agree with most of what you said in response to my post… even on the last sentence “Phew Long comment” 🙂

    Actually, when I said brilliant idea I meant a great business idea too. I actually said it in later part of my post. As for my comment on failures, it was just to stress on the level of passion needed to actually start off as a entrepreneur. Failures are reality, you need to be ready for it.

    I also agree on the comment, that most people find it hard to validate and execute their plans. Its a reality that we face in almost every aspect of life. But the question that pops up in my head now is, are students in a stage(skills wise etc) to better scope out their entrepreneurial plans by themselves? Do you think some work experience will actually make people better in validating and execution of plans? Probably work experience gives you that added ability to foresee risks for failure beforehand, which might help you mitigate those risks early.

    Are there other ways in which you can probably validate your ideas? By being in a school setting doing research. If something concrete comes out of your research you can probably spin out something off it. But the question is who would actually fund your research initially? It would be nice if we could discuss on these lines.. things which will help people better execute and avoid failure.

  15. @suman

    Please don’t get back to me hard for still being fixated on students being entrepreneurs thing 🙂 I know you already made the comment that people should be entrepreneur when they feel most comfortable with.

  16. Hey arjun, we love open discussions here so please don’t hold back on any of your views. On the point of students not having enough experience i don’t think anything can prepare you for entrepreneurship(except being entrepreneurial). On the other hand this is a very important question many students struggle with. I was planning to go into detail on this issue in an upcoming article so for now I digress. But the short version is experience can help sometimes and this is more so if you have had experience working in marketing or sales. So with apologies for my posponement of the issue, Adieu.

  17. Nice article, but let’s face inevitability ,it’s slightly far from reality. entrepreneurship at such an early stage is risky. though it’s better now than later, students prefer to get secured first(with a job). They prefer being an intrapreneur rather than an entrepreneur and then begin to think about starting up at a later stage with a little more experience . it’s not possible to start from a scratch(that’s what most think) but i feel if someone has the courage(to fail) then he’d rather use his garage to be famous than park his merc. or ferrari in it…

  18. Hey akash, to each his own. I don’t expect the bulk of the student population to become entrepreneurs. I only expect about 5%(and that is hoping) will go ahead and become entrepreneurs some day. It is a reality of life entrepreneurs don’t grow on trees, yet it is this minority who are passionate enough, foolish enough and mindful enough that have a gr8 chance of success.

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