Founding a startup while at school


I'm a Software Engineering student, have lots of ideas and read technology/startup blogs like a maniac. I've been developing web applications and websites for many years and was looking forward to work on a SaaS startup. The biggest problems I am facing at the moment is balancing my school work load and finding a cofounder. Did anyone here try/succeeded in starting a business while at school? Do you have any advice for me?


asked Oct 21 '09 at 08:25
Olivier Lalonde
2,753 points
  • Business is all about people, forge relationships with faculty, class mates, juniors, alumni and other like minded people. – Arpit Tambi 14 years ago
  • Wow! Many great answers, success stories and insights. I like the idea of finding a co-founder out of a business school and I totally agree with the fact that I've got nothing to lose at this point. Also liked the idea of trying to get credit at school for working on one of my projects. – Olivier Lalonde 14 years ago
  • I'm also starting a SaaS business while I'm in school for all the reasons listed below. I have nothing to add but I wish you luck. – Kort Pleco 13 years ago

11 Answers


Personally, I believe founding a startup while in school is the perfect time to start a new venture. There are many reasons for this:

  1. Huge amount of surrounding resources (software tools, computers, labs, underclassmen, etc.) that you have easy and cheap access to is hard to match. Some of this will persist as an alumni, but there is nothing like proximity of location while already being on campus for school.
  2. You allude to the school work load issue while trying to do the startup, but it is certainly better to be doing it in parallel with school as compared to a full time job. On average, I never spent 40+ hours a week on school. However, once you have a professional job, it is hard to spend less than 45 hours a week at the office. Having school and a side venture is a walk in the park by comparison.
  3. Presumably, no house to maintain, mortgage, wife, kids, etc. at this stage of your life. You want to talk about a time drain!?
  4. Current comfort to operating on a "student" budget and perhaps your parents or whoever are footing your room, board and tuition right now....or at the very minimum you should have access to cheap loans to cover all this while still in school. Once you graduate, its pretty much you and your job or you and your savings and/or your credit cards.

In effect, you got nothing to lose at this point.

Turn off the TV, Video games, Facebook, etc. and go for it! :-)

(And good luck!)

....ah...fond memories of the easy days back in school....but I digress.

answered Oct 21 '09 at 09:39
Tall Jeff
1,406 points
  • I agree with Jeff's comments. My first startups were all founded while I was still doing my undergrad and it was the best time to do it. Note, some schools are more friendly about being accomodating than may be worth looking into what's involved in taking a term (or year) off, just so you know what you'd have to do if it comes to that. – Joseph Fung 14 years ago


I started my first company right at the tail-end of my undergrad program (computer science) and my third company during my time in grad school. I'm a big fan of kicking things off while in school.

In terms of finding a co-founder, that's never easy -- but it's much easier to do when you're around so many other smart people. So, you should allocate some time to it as it's a rare opportunity to find like-minded individuals that you might want to partner with.

Having said that, I'm also a big fan of cranking code and building a product too.

That's always the entrepreneurial dilemma. Too much to do and too little time.

answered Oct 21 '09 at 15:25
Dharmesh Shah
2,865 points


I am currently at the end to a double major in marketing & entrepreneurship. I'm on my third startup idea. My first business product was a complete failure but I learned more in a few months then I had learned in a entire year. My second startup xs650 chopper is a success for what I intended it to be; a experiment in building a site that generates income. I believe starting a small business while in school is smart because it gives you real world experience to test the theory. A resource that I've been devouring and which led me here is the work Andrew Warner is doing at I believe I've listen to almost all of his work. If you're just doing school I don't think having a side business would be too much to handle. However, having a job going to school and trying to start a business is a little ambitious:)

answered Jan 4 '10 at 16:14
31 points


I would try recruiting a co-founder in the business school at the university you are attending. Many business schools have business plan competitions where the MBA students are either developing or looking to develop a business plan and would be looking for a technical partner.

Failing that, the business school should have counseling services available to help you in your search for a partner.

answered Oct 21 '09 at 09:05
156 points
  • I am not sure a fresh MBA grad (or any MBA grad for that matter) is of any use to a technology startup. I'd stick with technology partners. – Tim J 14 years ago


I started a business at the end of high school and it kept me going all throughout college. When I finished my degree in Business Administration with an Entrepreneurial concentration, I came out that much stronger. I'd definitely say go for it. My background is in technology, I'd love to talk with you more and share my two cents with you if you'd like. Feel free to contact me via e-mail (or through my site, I'm not sure if you see e-mails on here). Good luck!

answered Dec 2 '09 at 03:30
460 points


go ahead without a co-founder. It's the rule but there's no stopping you from being an exception. is a one-person startup based in Beijing if you need a Q.E.D.

answered Oct 21 '09 at 09:24
164 points


You should talk to one of your professors. You sound like you could receive some partial credit for developing further any one of the ideas you have. Credit could come from the entrepreneurship angle, or the software development angle. Either way, it would help you lower your work load.

For finding co-founders, that's what FairSoftware (my current startup) is trying to help you find. Let us know how it works out for you.

answered Oct 21 '09 at 08:56
Alain Raynaud
10,927 points


I'd go for it. I teach Entrepreneurship at University and we talked about this in tutorials today!

I encourage all my students to start businesses during their study for a few reasons:

  1. You get great experience. Often entrepreneurs have 3 or 4 failed or so so businesses before they have a huge success, but the previous ones are essential for their learning.
  2. It's generally easier to take a risk because you have less commitments when younger
  3. It's better than working at MacDonald's to fund your way through Uni
  4. It's a great time to find a business partner. A lot of people find their business partners at Uni
  5. There's a lot of resources available to you in the Uni environment - and people who can mentor you.
  6. You can always defer your studies and come back to them, but a good opportunity waits for no man or woman!

Good luck!


answered Mar 2 '10 at 17:40
Susan Jones
4,128 points


Good for you. I'd suggest keep trying both or do whatever captures your imagination and dreams the most. Many schools will allow you to defer for some time period. Your parents will probably be fairly upset if you drop out of school...

If you get a chance to listen to podcasts, check out Stanford's entrepreneurial thought leaders series. There are some fantastic ones - and quite a few of them talk about startups while in school.

There is one presentation in particular from an ex-Stanford student who is a proponent of leaving school and starting a company. (though he also says graduating is a fine choice as well.) He dropped out to start a company and is worth about a half billion USD right now. (at least at the time of the podcast) A few of the other co-founders were able to finish school

See the following links: Let us know how the progress goes.

answered Dec 1 '09 at 15:36
Tim J
8,346 points


I started my website 2 semesters before I graduated. At the time I had a part time job and was a full-time student (15-17 hours). I would put in a couple hours a week(maybe 5-8) and had a working version in half a semester without many time problems.

I did it without a co-founder and I am glad I did because most my buddies that I graduated with are gone to different city's and half other full time development jobs, so coordinating stuff with them would have been tough.

Also when your in college you are still in that mentality that pulling a late night is no problem. Which helped sometimes when the ball was really rolling.

So go and pick the 1 project you want to do the most and get started. The sooner the better!

answered Oct 22 '09 at 21:52
Cory Mathews
326 points


While others might have had successful startups during school, just be careful. You might get too excited about the startup it might affect your grades. It might also make you drop out of school if it gets successful but successful for a short time before it dies for uncontrollable reasons and you find yourself out of work and out of school and a degree.

It works for some people and it doesn't for others. Decide carefully.

answered Mar 1 '10 at 14:55
Tony Henrich
85 points

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