You just had the most innovative idea that’s going to change the world. It will be the next big thing since the iPhone. But how do you turn your idea into a reality? Last November, local entrepreneurs shared their experience with Philadelphia students on how they turned their light bulb moment into a startup company at the Start. Stay. Grow. Lightning Talks Series: Entrepreneurial Pathways.
Five entrepreneurs each gave a 5-minute talk giving advice to student about working at startups. Topics included launching a startup as a student, bootstrapping, fundraising, working for a startup, and working at an accelerator or coworking space. This event was hosted by Start. Stay. Grow., an organization committed to encouraging Philadelphia’s growing millennial population to live and work in the city. Here’s a break down of important points made during the talk.
Working at a startup is a tough, but you’ll learn a lot
It’s true that when you’ll find beer and cheesesteaks in the fridge at a typical Philly startup, says Kate Leisy. She joined the Curalate team after getting the fellowship at Venture for America, an organization that trains and matches recent grads with startups in emerging U.S. cities. Leisy admits that working at a startup requires huge emotional investment, which means that you probably won’t make it to the gym everyday at 6:30 p.m. When getting involved in startups, you’ll learn at an extremely fast pace and have access to Philly’s thriving startup community. Leisy adds that unlike in Silicon Valley, Philly leaders will answer your emails.
Get help from universities and attending meetups
Morgan Bergen, CEO of tech startup Milkcrate, started her company while she was a grad student at Philadelphia University. She got the idea for the Yelp-like app featuring sustainable businesses for her Masters Thesis project. She highly recommended for students to reach out to entrepreneurship services at their universities, like Blackstone Launchpad, to learn how to be startup and attend meetups in the city for collaboration and resource sharing.
Be a freelancer or consultant
Well-known Philly startup junkie, Alex Hillman co-founded Indy Hall, one of Philadelphia’s first coworking spaces, talked about bootstrapping, gathering finances and resources for a startup without the help of investors. He advised students to work as freelancers and consultants, telling companies what they need and how they can pay you. Then joining a co working space gives entrepreneurs a chance to learn from others and how they do business.
The key to bootstrapping is to build an audience and serve them. He recommended taking his online course program called 30×500 and reading his blog Unicorn Free for “real deal, no bullshit advice” on bootstrapping.
Joining an accelerator will give you momentum
Many founders choose to put their startup through an accelerator, programs that provide mentoring, training, office space, and some funding. Two-time accelerator vet, Justin Goldman debunked the typical expectations from join accelerator programs. Accelerators will not (1) turn you into an entrepreneur, (2) tell you why or how somebody is going to use your product or service, (3) help you get costumers, (4) create your business model. Accelerators will force you to focus through competition. It will give you validation for your idea, so people won’t think you’re crazy. It will provide opportunities for you. And you’ll gain valuable advice and feedback from investors and veteran entrepreneurs.
When reaching to investors, explain how your company is relevant to them
Often founders need to get funding for their startup. With his experience as a partner of venture firm First Round Capital and employee of Half.com (when it was startup), Chris Fralic shared advice on how to raise money. When reaching out to venture capital firms, along with including a description of the company, emphasize how your startup relates to the individual investor and why it matters to them. Fralic also recommended that startups raise a little more than they need and get investors that you trust in good and bad times. Founders should expect to practice 100 hours for each pitch.
Keep up with future student entrepreneurship events on the Start. Stay. Grow. Facebook page.