"Get a 5-year job experience and then get into your own startup"
This is what I was told when I wanted to start Cogno AI right out of college. Everyone was against my decision.
Today, 5 years later, we are a strong team of 150+ members with 175+ Enterprise clients and have been successfully acquired in a multi-million dollar transaction.
Here are my suggestions for those who want to start up right from college:
1. Don't listen to people who are stopping you from achieving your dreams. Many of them would give you suggestions that are applicable to them, but not to you. Others would have never started a business of their own. The rest of them would be jealous of you and so, they don't want you to succeed. In either case, don't listen to negative advice.
2. Learn Sales. This is more important for Engineers who know how to build and so, they spend all of their time building things that nobody needs. Learn to sell by a presentation. Learn to sell by showing a video. Learn to sell without building a Product. Then build what you just sold.
3. Read a lot of books on Entrepreneurship. The Lean Startup, The Hard Things About The Hard Things, Atomic Habits, Think and Grow Rich, How to Win Friends and Influence People. These books will teach you invaluable skills of goal setting, collaboration, hard work, and discipline which are all extremely important for any entrepreneur.
4. Contrary to what you'd have heard, success in business is about discipline rather than intelligence. You have to do the same thing every single day - meet customers and tell them about your product so that they buy from you, and meet employees and tell them about your vision so that they join you. Every single day.
5. Learn to focus. When we are young, we have that urge to do anything and everything and solve all the problems of the world. As Kunal Shah says - you got to be something for someone before being everything for everyone else you'll be nothing for everyone. Solve 1 problem for 1 customer. Don't do everything.
6. Don't underestimate the power of agreements and contracts. Early on, all of your friends would be excited to become your Co-founder because hey, startups are cool! Remember, many of them will walk away during placements or conflicts. Cofounder Agreements will save you at that time.
7. Get the right set of mentors to help you. I was fortunate to get some great people to mentor me. One of my mentors was so kind that he met my parents during my convocation to assure them that my decision of starting up was the right decision and that he was there to guide me. Another of my mentors helped us acquire multiple major clients via his connects.
8. Lastly, learn to be humble. Like most college kids, I was that 'angry young man' during my college days. But business taught me how to be humble. College is all about individual performance. Business is all about team performance and collaboration. Big difference between the two.
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