It’s odd that so many people think college students can’t start kickass companies: they can and they have!
What even cooler is this:
Universities are now starting to actively promote and encourage entrepreneurship in its students!
If you’re a college student, the number of free resources available to you is second to none. Maybe you don’t know about them because you listen to your professors talk all day long about brushing up your resume to get some stupid corporate job…
…but they’re out there, just ripe for the picking, just waiting for you to find them.
Here’s some specs on 5 awesome resources available to university entrepreneurs. Even if you go to a state university (like I did), they will probably have some of these resources.
I wish I knew about these when I was in college, and seriously, if you don’t take advantage of these and then complain later (“there’s no resources to help me become an entrepreneur! waaaah!”), I will come over there and annihilate you:
1. University incubators and accelerators
Universities all over the nation are offering extremely kickass resources to student entrepreneurs, including funding, incubators and accelerators.
For example, my alma mater Arizona State University has an entire office space (SkySong) devoted to student entrepreneurship, and offers funding and mentorship to student startups through its Innovation Challenge and Edson program (up to $25,000 in grants), and free office space for a year through the Edson program.
Even universities that don’t have infrastucture this extensive probably have a business plan competition where you can get a nice bucket o’ cash for your business idea.
Beware, though, that universities help you out, in part, to gain ownership of intellectual property you develop using university resources (it’s called technology transfer, and it’s something you should be intimately familiar with and ask about before accepting funding or services from a university: see the Edson Program’s FAQ #13, and more information from the University of Arizona’s technology transfer office).
2. University business consulting
What if you could get industry experts to give you thousands of dollars worth of advice for free or for a huge discount?
Easy, my friend!
For example, The University of Connecticut does free business consulting through the Connecticut Center for Education and Innovation (CCEI), and offers free patent help through the IP Law Clinic.
3. Meetup groups
You know how 98% of people just give you a weird look when you say you want to pursue entrepreneurship?
Well, Meetup.com is a great way to connect with the other 2% of people that get you, man!
There’s tons of startup Meetup groups, too (even in small cities!). Just go to Meetup.com, sign up, and search “entrepreneurship <your city>” or “startup <your city>”.
From my experience, not many college students go to these; this means you have a chance to be unique and have all of the cool people to yourself!
4. Professors who actually care about entrepreneurship
Not all professors are old fuddy-duddies: Some of them are a goldmine of information and expertise you can use to help you as you start your company; and, they make excellent mentors too.
At ASU, I met a professor who had already made bank starting companies who taught just to enjoy a semi-retirement lifestyle. I’m sure few students went to his office to ask for help in starting a company, but for those that did, they would find his time and help to be extremely valuable.
How to find professors who actually care about entrepreneurship:
- Go talk to the dean/ someone important in your school’s Management Department (also search to see if they have a separate entrepreneurship department) and just ask! It’s really just that easy.
- Note that some professors just research entrepreneurship and don’t have actual startup experience. Clearly, your goal is to find the ones that have the actual experience.
Mark my words, you’ll be amazed how much progress you can make by just asking!
5. Computer science clubs and classes; and university software development programs
Looking for a programmer? College is the easiest and cheapest place to find awesome programming talent, either as a co-founder or as an employee.
How do you find them?
Of course, there’s the obvious option of going to CS clubs and student orgs and pitching them. You can also put fliers in the hallways of the CS dorms! (That’s how my brother, a CS major who is a complete genius at anything web-based, almost got picked up by a student web startup).
But there’s other ways, too:
Often, computer science students are required to complete a capstone senior design project class…that means that the school accepts industry projects, and has the students work on it for credit.
If you can find a way to get in on this…I know Arizona State University and the University of Connecticut have it, for example…it’s essentially a goldmine of free (or inexpensive) programmers. For schools that do charge, it’s always $8,000 (and they often don’t charge students even if they do charge outsiders)….$8,000 for hundreds or thousands of hours of programming is a pretty sweet deal.
The great thing about the senior design project is that it’s monitored for quality and progress by the students’ professors, which makes using the SDP a lot less shadier than getting a random freelancer.
Find out about this by going to your school’s computer science department and ask about the senior design project, or any other program where students get credit for doing programming.
Do they say “startups have to pay a fee”?
Bullocks. Everything is negotiable, especially if you’re a university student.
NOTE: The senior design project usually only happens at the beginning of the semester or school year…in other words, you can’t approach them in October or March with a new project…you have to do it when classes start.