Over the years, student entrepreneurship has become largely popular in the USA. Out of the top 10 universities in the world that produce the most startup founders, 9 are in the USA, with the top 3 being Ivy League colleges. There are even venture capital funds that exclusively focus on funding college startups in the USA like Rough Draft Ventures by General Catalyst, First Round Capital’s Dorm Room Fund, and Contrary Capital.
However, in India, the environment is not quite the same, but it has the potential to be. The All India Council for Technical Education (AICTE), in 2016, formulated a policy to promote student-driven start-ups. Following this, many colleges have now launched entrepreneurship clubs and the government has backed some of them.
The students in this era, like you, are more attracted to starting their own businesses than taking roles within a company. The aspirations of the students are stronger today. Yet, taking the first steps may feel like a challenge to you. Hence, here are some tips on how you can try building a startup from college and make the most of the resources available.
- Conduct small experiments: Trying out your idea with short-term experiments can be a great way to start. College connects you to a diverse population. Students coming from different backgrounds will provide you with a spectrum of different views.
- Connect with your college alumni: Another added benefit of being in a college community is that everyone is usually willing to help, especially the alumni of your college. You must try to connect with people who have expertise in your domain or in a specific area that you need help with. The seniors you approach need not be entrepreneurs themselves. However, the alumni network is a great source for expanding your contacts and making connections with potential clients, partners or investors.
- Take guidance from your professors: There are some practical benefits of launching your business while you’re still in college. You will have access to resources that are harder to access or more expensive after you graduate. For instance, your subject professors could become potential business mentors, especially with all the expertise and experience they already have. Make sure you build a personal bond, outside of the classroom, with your professors who might be able to help you ideate your vision. Ideas from classes can also be transformed into business initiatives. Your department’s center, lab or club may provide expensive equipment that can accelerate development.
- Participate in networking events: You must make use of any networking opportunities you get while you are in college. Networking is essential for success in any career field, more so in the entrepreneurial world. There will be multiple events designed to connect students with bright ideas like you to other students with similar passions. These events may possibly connect you with investors and community leaders.
- Take part in startup contests: Google Launchpad’s India accelerator program, Boeing India’s BUILD program, Accenture Innovation Challenge and Pepsico’s Change the Game competition are some of the contests in India that come on a regular basis around the year and are open to students. The winning teams may get support in the form of funds, incubation, and/or mentorship. Even if you don’t end up winning, these events give you the right exposure to the startup ecosystem of ideas and they will definitely be valuable in your later days.
- Connect your startup idea to your course project: Explore and see if there can be a crossover between your idea and your course project or assignment. This allows you to devote most of your time to your startup idea without hampering your academics. It also eliminates ‘time-waste’ by basically doing the same projects that your seniors did in the previous years. More importantly, you will have the guidance and feedback of your college faculty.
With large sums of foreign money flowing into Indian startups, the entire ecosystem has the potential to grow, and not to forget the government encouragement and friendly policies that will go a long way. Of late, there has been emergence of small campus focused VC firms in India like gradCapital. This growth in the number of campus startups can immensely benefit the economy and job creation.