What should a young entrepreneur do?


I'm twenty years old and I live in upstate New York. I took the last semester off to focus on starting a business, but it didn't take off as I planned. I want to be a successful entrepreneur and I'm wiling to do anything to achieve this. I applied to a few internships at startup incubators this summer but I haven't heard back from them. I can't code but I've managed to build websites.

Summer classes start in a week and I'm also registering for the fall. And I honestly feel like I'm selling out of my dream. When I took last semester off I felt like Mark Zuckerberg when he just dropped out of Harvard. I know I don't want to use my Business degree to get a job after college and if I do, it will be with a startup to gain more experience.

I've got about a thousand dollars in savings and part of me is too afraid to do something like get up and move to silicon valley. But the other part of me feels like I'm just going back to college and selling out on my goals.

What can I do?


asked May 13 '11 at 15:37
31 points
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5 Answers


The best time to start a company is in college.

I launched 2 companies. 1 failed, and I'm working on the second still and it's going strong. I also gamed the system as much as I could so I would have free time to develop my ideas.

Here's why you should start in college:

  1. You have almost no liabilities. You're housing, utilities, and food are pretty much taken care of. You'll have lots of time to think about your business.
  2. It's the single best place to meet all different people with different skill sets, and learn what kinds of people you like working with.
  3. You have access to professors, and if you are in business school, some of those professors may have experience starting companies. They are getting paid to help you, so take advantage of it.
  4. You can make mistakes while you are learning and there aren't too many ramifications.
  5. You can use your entrepreneurial drive to help you get through school. Turn every project you do into something related to your business idea. Personally, I wasn't a big fan of class, but after I took a programming class I eventually ended up TAing then teaching it. I earned an entire semesters worth of credits learning something I use everyday now.

It's ok to get a B in all your classes too. Don't shoot for A's.

answered May 13 '11 at 23:35
Andy Cook
2,309 points


  1. Before you get into a start-up or any type of business, you should be sure about what you can contribute to it. Firstly, you should have ideas and be able to share them with clarity. If you're on the tech side, you should know about your capabilities as a coder, designer, and whatever else you bring to the table. As a business major, can you provide leadership and management? Can you build budgets, find investors, do some PR, or marketing? Are you comfortable with learning new stuff on the fly? Like coding, if you have to? (Principles of computer programming are good to know, for everyone)
  2. Make friends. If you have ideas and skills to develop those ideas, you will know when you find the right people. It's easy to get engineers excited about projects, if you find a group with a goal and keep em motivated. You don't have to move to the Silicon Valley, but you can take a trip down to Silicon Alley (NYC), there are a LOT of start-ups happening. You can try to find a group on meetup.com.

That's my advice. I'm doing my Bachelors of Computer Engineering down in NYC, and am part of an internet start-up as well. We have 4-5 people, and are pretty set on raising a few million dollars during the summer (our Business guy is great, he was also the one who had the idea in the first place!) How did I find it? Just keeping on good terms with professors and friends. Few good bits: Don't be afraid of working with older people, and if you feel comfortable, oversell yourself, and then work your ass off to meet the expectations. First time I met with the team, I was asked whether I knew certain things needed for web (PHP/Javascript/Ajax/CMS/mySQL). I said sure, even though I never actually wrote a line of code in PHP/AJAX or a query in mySQL. I had to work non-stop for a whole weekend to put together a landing page/demo for the project, learning more than whatever I learned in the first 2 years of college. In the end, it was good, and now I'm working as part of the group. All I'm trying to say is, don't be afraid to push your limits. Good luck.

answered May 13 '11 at 16:26
76 points
  • +1 Thanks for sharing your experiences with us – Edralph 13 years ago


Finish college, participate in your local startup community, gain experience and make connections. You have plenty of time and you don't need to do everything before you are 21 :)

answered May 13 '11 at 18:45
Daniel Vaughan
231 points


Twenty years old and your first start up didn’t go as planned. Now that’s the first thing to learn about being an entrepreneur, it won't work easily and the first or second time. Often things come in threes and three times is lucky, but that’s no true gauge.

You have to remember that many start ups have lots of money when they start that can come from many places: Venture Capitalists, Savings, Family, Friends a remortgage or loan, many people secure finances have a great idea and can run for a year, what they do in that year could keep them running or it might not. There are always so many things to learn.

Money is an important thing, but it should never be spent without real consideration. The best ideas don't require money in the first place, as I’m sure you remember from the Social Network, coding didn’t cost him anything just time. Investment comes later, once you get the people buying into your website, product or service.

I personally have worked on freelance, contract and full time roles. I have worked in Start ups, Corporations, International Business, Agencies and with many other types of businesses and individuals. I did most of that in the last six years, the experience I have gained from seeing others work, their processes and meeting so many people has helped me enormously. It doesn’t mean it’s been an easy journey, but the things I have learnt were unexpected and always are.

I really don't think start ups are the best environment to work within, it’s not stable and its constantly changing. People do not perform at their best when they are always doing new things, you see the best people have honed their skills and have been doing it for many years. If a start up is full of brilliant talent, then great, but often it’s hard to attract the best people to a risky new venture.

Remember, you are where you are now, you will always want to be doing your own thing, so maybe use your time and money to setup something that you can continue working on while working for someone else in your free time. You will need that personal ownership of something, especially when spending a lot of your time working for someone else.

Also remember, no matter who you are and what you do, you will always have to answer to someone. Someone is paying you, governments dictate how you do things, even if you have staff, you will need to answer to them and keep them focused.

So keep ya chin up, realise everything teaches you something and learning will only make you stronger for the future. Now may not be your time, but if you keep trying, you will get there, persistence is key and never give up, on anything, just redirect your efforts ;)

Good luck man!

answered May 13 '11 at 23:04
86 points


It sounds like you want to be in a startup just to feel "like Mark Zuckerberg". Starting and running a business is exhausting and risky. Unless you are passionate about what you are doing you are not likely to be happy.

There is nothing wrong with going to college and working in an established company. Many, many entrepreneurs got their start that way. They learn many good things and also get to see possible pain points/business opportunities and get ideas for products and services.

You have to make do with what you have. Remaining a pauper just to say you are an entrepreneur is not the right way to go about it.

If you are in school focus on that. 20 is very young. Keep a mindset that you will spend your time and energy on things that are worthwhile - don't go flinging yourself into any old startup - pick and choose wisely. If your goal is to be a successful entrepreneur then keep that in the back of your mind and when the opportunities come, take them.

answered May 13 '11 at 23:22
Tim J
8,346 points

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