A unique idea which can get validation financially as well as acceptance from possible customers can catapult you into entrepreneurship. But a startup involves a high level of risk and a sense of perseverance among other traits, which ends up making college possibly the best time to go in for a startup. That is because this is the low risk – low responsibility phase of your life. But how does a college student gather support while setting out on this path?
Watch as Anil Chhikara, an Entrepreneur at Heart and the Judge of India’s first startup reality TV show answers the questions in our fourth video of the six Part Video Series that focusses on examining the kind of support for college entrepreneurs available out there.
Support For Young Entrepreneurs
With the exponential growth in the popularity of startups, many colleges today have entrepreneurship cells with a host of facilities available. College authorities tend to provide infrastructural support like internet access, equipment, particularly for the manufacturing sector such as 3D printers, analytics, and tech like high end software which could otherwise become a very high cost factor otherwise. This saves money of students. However, once you’re out of college there are other solutions to infrastructural requirements out there in the world like co-working spaces which provide you with space, facilities like internet and office supplies essentially.
Another area where colleges become very useful is in providing mentorship. Students with little or no real-world experience need right mentors and advisors. This need can be fulfilled in the college which essentially has the right kind of advisors on board often with real-world experience from the industry.
The startup journey starts with an idea. You may be confident that the idea is earth-shatteringly unique, but it requires research and in-depth analysis for you to be absolutely sure of how to work it out to a success. For instance, a startup idea is related to big data analytics in the medical field – access to that kind of data and literature to validate it and understand whether customers need it or not and more importantly will pay for it or not and is there anyone else doing something similar, make incubators the best approachable option.
Remember, professional investors, do not put in money on an idea alone as ideas are worthless as compared to tangible efforts with reviews and validation which hold more weight. Professional investors will come in when you have proof to show it’s not just an idea, but has merit to become a viable product, has customers willing to pay for it, and only then will they be willing to grant you money to take it to the market and scale it up.
With government endorsed Startup India schemes in place, institutes are now getting grants to setup Incubation Centers within the college which has become a huge help in funding student startups. Incubators have an option to give grants to student startups and colleges like NIT and IIT even has a system in place which can give grants up to 15-20 lakhs.
When a product or service is ready to take it to the market, you are fraught with questions such as what should be your packaging, licensing and distribution strategy. Should you go through partners or use a more direct approach? That is where accelerators come in.
Accelerators do what the term suggests – accelerating your business which would beat a nascent stage at the time. Startup accelerators, also known as seed accelerators include mentorship and educational guidance, thus providing the “seed” to fast-track your business.
Getting profits going is where these people help you. Connecting you with the right customers, getting traction for your product or service and getting the revenues going is all part of an accelerator’s profile. Professional investors engage with accelerators which in turn work with startups and thus become a connecting bridge between the two. The process typically involves a seed investment being made in the startup in exchange for equity.
Another essential support in shaping your path to success are startups competitions which invite pitching of ideas and a meet and greet with potential investors. An important advice to note, particularly for student entrepreneurs is to go in for as many of these pitching and startup competitions out there as possible. Don’t wait for the ‘perfect stage’ to start pitching. While you do so, be prepared to answer questions while pitching. Such forums enable an exchange of thoughts, ideas, conversations and knowing insights you may not have even considered earlier.
Gain this experience, make mistakes, learn from them and gather your thoughts and notes better the next time you approach these forums so that by the time you are ready and launching, you will also be perfect in pitching which will ultimately help you make the sale. As per the other alternative, if you wait to finish the product and then start to pitch you will be facing a learning curve of about 5 to 6 months which may delay your ultimate launch into the market and possibly even hamper the validity of your startup in this fast-moving world.
Plenty Out There
In addition to the above suggestions, the advent of the internet, ready to be accessed within microseconds even from the palm of your hand and opportunities offered by bigger companies like Google, Facebook, Amazon, the world is a better place today to provide resources for an aspiring startup.