Student Entrepreneurs: Build Products, Not CVs.

When due to a twist of fate, I chose not to sit in the placements for my start-up and go full-time with it, I looked out for all those co-entrepreneurs and their ventures for support.
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I talked to a student entrepreneur recently, a junior from my alma mater, and asked him about why did he start-up. His reply astounded me and made me reflect on my similar mistakes when I was a student entrepreneur. Student_of_the_Year_thumb.jpg

I remember how when I was a student and started up my company along with a batchmate of mine in my early fourth year(May ’10), a dozen other start-ups had sprouted at the same time. For the next seven months (up till Dec), those start-ups executed so well that I felt that finally, my alma mater was becoming India’s finest start-up cradle, similar to what MIT/Harvard is, and it made me feel very proud and happy.

Come December, the month of job placements, and we see all those founders get placed in some company or the other. All the hardwork for their start-ups reached the pinnacle much before the beginning of the placement month. When due to a twist of fate, I chose not to sit in the placements for my start-up and go full-time with it, I looked out for all those co-entrepreneurs and their ventures for support. I logged in their websites, they were no more there. As many as ten start-ups that came alive around May ’10 ceased to exist by January ’11. We were left alone –  all alone in the uncertain path of entrepreneurship.

Last weekend when I talked to this junior of mine, I was baffled as even three years down the line, despite so much growth in the entrepreneurial eco-system across India, so many inspiring examples to emulate, things haven’t changed. My junior told me that his start-up is going to stay only for a year, during which he plans to take the idea to almost all the premier business plan contests, win prizes, earn some money, collect certificates, and in the end, build his resume to crack a consulting job out of the campus.

Saddened, when I ask him what about the venture, I get a feeble response like,

Once I have the money, I’ll think of starting again. In college it’s so easy, I couldn’t resist starting up. There was no investment required – with access to free high speed internet, dorm room, food and juniors to work for you for free.

My junior attends five-six b-plan competition every month, gathers certificates, adds spikes in his resume, and at the end of it, I’m certain he would crack a good job out of the campus. But all through the while, the child – the venture, lacks proper nourishment and would die of neglect.

We can create great entrepreneurial eco-system, we can hold a plethora of bootcamps, but how can we change this mentality of ours – to a situation – where we use start-ups not to build great CVs, but great products – which would dissolve the need to make a CV for life?

What are your thoughts?

[About the author: Harsh Snehanshu is a former entrepreneur and the author of Because Shit Happened: What NOT to do in a start-up! (reviewed here). He has been travelling across India for the past one year to work on his fifth book.]

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