How to Close Your Startup's Experience Gap
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Sometime during the first two weeks of school last year, I approached my entrepreneurship professor after class to get her thoughts on something I’d read: A former student entrepreneur said getting an MBA is 50 percent networking, 20 percent class work, and 30 percent doing what you eventually want to do. Only 20 percent for classes? That didn’t seem right. My professors all demanded 110 percent from us.
So, what was my professor’s response to this? Her smile dropped, her gaze intensified and she said, “Suck the life out of this school. Partner with the school and use it up. Network with everyone. Take advantage of every opportunity you’re given. Pitch as much as you can, as often as you can. Take action. You only have two years here and then it’s over. Use up every bit of resources this school has to offer before you have to move on.”
Looking back a year later, she was absolutely right. Nothing gives your startup a shot of adrenaline like partnering up -- especially when it is with something or someone with a lot more resources than you.
When school started, I had lots of ideas that I thought could be cool businesses, but I didn't now where to start. That’s where partnerships stepped in and my ideas started to come to life. The Arthur M. Blank Center for Entrepreneurship at Babson College houses an amazing co-working space filled with whiteboards, books and intrepid entrepreneurs. I started to use it. The college also offered the John E. and Alice L. Butler Venture Accelerator Program. I joined it.
I set goals for my idea, started meeting with mentors and got to work. After I participated in the Babson Rocket Pitch event, I attracted two co-founders and even generated some buzz from investors. A few weeks later, my team participated in the Big Idea Competition and the Blank Center provided us with a mentor and pitch trainings, helping us finish as one of two winning teams.
Babson’s own partnership with the Start-Up Chile program meant our team had an automatic spot in one of the upcoming rounds the next summer, which came with a $40,000 grant for developing our business.
Being highly involved with the school continued to pay major dividends for my gaming startup, Spy Games. In our second semester we were awarded office space in the graduate-business hatchery, finished as one of three finalists in the Babson B.E.T.A. challenge business competition and were invited to run a pilot of our game during the college's annual Founder’s Day event. Funding from the event allowed us to take important steps like officially forming the company and purchasing important software. The exposure from that competition led to our first paid-corporate game and continues to provide leads even months later.
Throughout all of last year, if felt as if every time my team took one small step, our campus resources, connections and partnerships catapulted us forward another ten steps. It was incredible. If you are a student interested in entrepreneurship, you have absolutely must get involved and connected right away. Here are three things to remember:
1. Close the gap. You may have some gaps between your team and your opportunity. The fastest way to close the gap is by expanding your resources through partnerships. Don’t think you can do it alone.
2. Capitalize on your environment. If you’re a student, get the most out of your campus resources, including programs, clubs, faculty and staff. Do everything you can to connect and build relationships with the people and organizations around you. Take every opportunity available.
3. Partnerships are two-way streets. If you want doors opened for you, do what you can to provide value for the other party first. The more you give, the more you’ll get. Take the time to really foster these relationships so they grow into something big.
What resources did you use to help launch your business? Leave a comment and let us know.