I like to think about the path to building successful startups as a journey–it’s really the entrepreneur’s journey. Each journey will be different, especially when it comes to the early stages of what sparks the idea for the startup. I simplify this journey by thinking of the entrepreneur is one of three stages: curious, committed, and crushing it.
Most students will be in the curious stage, where they are looking for inspiration, ideation, rapid prototyping and thinking about diving into incubation.
That said, assuming most students are curious about how to launch a startup, I have three general recommendations that might be helpful, and they are in three different areas of their life.
- Explore campus to make connections with talented peers / professors and find the programs and initiatives that will inspire and focus your ideation process.
a. Ideation — Be curious. Find problems to solve or new solutions to scale while doing your classwork and projects.
b. Programs / Relationships — see if your campus has an incubator, entrepreneurship program or certification, a business school, design or engineering programs; this is where you can build relationships with talented folks that can help you make an idea real, either as collaborators or mentors. If your school doesn’t have these resources, tell the campus leadership you want it.
- Have an idea? Build something, test it. Or work in a similar industry and help them test it. Embrace lab-to-market opportunities.
a. Don’t stay in the classroom. Push your professors to give you real-world, real-time problems and projects you can work on now. Can you do work study? Are there any competitions that will focus your efforts?
b. MVP, rapid prototyping, lean startup approach→ getting market feedback and data if and when possible.
c. If you can’t build an idea yourself, identify your needs and get a team together. Don’t let the perfect be the enemy of the good. If you don’t have an idea yet and want to boost your IQ, work at a startup part time or as an intern.
- Nurture community off campus. San Diego has a lot going on beyond your campus. Make an effort to attend a meaningful event off campus once a week.
a. There are lots of organizations in San Diego that are working to support aspiring and early-stage entrepreneurs. Learn who they are and check out their events. Subscribe to their newsletters to stay in the loop. Hop into meetups.
b. E.g. Startup San Diego has a lot of monthly and annual events coming up in 2019, including Convergence in late February, which is a must-attend event for college students. It’s essentially a Meetup for all Meetups crossed with an uncareer fair.
The last thing I would add is that the entrepreneurial journey can be a paradox. It requires both patience and impatience, a plan and the ability to pivot, investment to grow and fear of not having enough. However, three things that I have found hold constant are integrity, authenticity, and discipline. Basically, folks have to trust you, so be real with where you are at in your entrepreneurial journey and remember that you can’t build your idea alone, it requires collaboration.
On that note, something I heard from the Governor of Colorado, John Hickenlooper, comes to mind — it was his mantra when he was mayor of Denver.
Collaboration moves at the speed of trust.
Jarrod is a local San Diegan, born and raised in Oceanside. He studied at Mira Costa Community College, then transferred to UCSD, where he was both an undergrad and grad student. For his undergraduate degree, Jarrod studied international political science and physics at Warren College. In graduate school, he went to the School of Global Policy and Strategy, where he focused on environmental policy and economic development. Jarrod has worked throughout Latin America, especially Bolivia, Brazil, and Mexico. He speaks both Spanish and Portuguese. He is also on the board of the Museum of Man in Balboa Park. He’s also taught in the hospitality and tourism program at San Diego State University.
Jarrod currently lives in Ocean Beach, where you’ll occasionally find him working from coffee shops, surfing, playing volleyball, and doing acro yoga.
Jarrod started working in the local innovation economy in 2013 when he became the Director of Public Affairs of a fast-growing internet marketing company. He has been a strong advocate of the startup community ever since, including his past community service as co-chair of the tech-startup committee for the Downtown San Diego Partnership for 2 years.