I never got a chance to go to a 4-year university as my tenure in college was very short-lived and was quickly replaced by my need to work in order to support myself. While I didn’t have a formal education behind me, I was still able to find massive success in corporate America, in self-employment, and in entrepreneurship. In part, this is a result of my hard work ethic but also because of my ability to be resourceful. Today I coach many individuals in my Academy, and many of them are college students asking me, “How do I go about finding ideas when I’m in college?”
Being in college is as much a time commitment as it is an opportunity to learn the ropes of entrepreneurship. Most people in college are on a budget or have very little money to spare. However, they have access to two major things most entrepreneurs out of college struggle with: people (other students) and resources (books, computers, meeting rooms, professors, etc.). Both of which provide the perfect playground for building the next great idea.
Most startups are bootstrapped, meaning they are limited in resources, yet have to become extremely resourceful in order to be successful. This is why being in college is very much aligned with the idea of being bootstrapped and learning to become resourceful as an entrepreneur.
The benefits of being in college is that you are often within reach of many other people and are able to interact with them on a personal 1-on-1 basis. Most students don’t make a ton of money, but most students want to make a ton of money. More importantly, most students have a very particular skill-set coupled with a generous amount of time (if they are not working).
As a result, finding partners that have various skill-sets with similar interest and schedules isn’t as difficult as when you are in your post-college days and on your own in the real world.
How do we get ideas?
Very simply put, we find a problem, we see a solution, and we believe our talent can align with executing and managing such solution. Ideas and opportunities are all around us and they can manifest themselves in the simplest manner, like noticing that your neighborhood doesn’t have a car wash within 30 miles or identifying that your favorite online product doesn’t have a necessary feature which could be a game-changer. No matter how small or large a problem is, it requires a solution and based on your past expertise, confidence, and talent, you are either that solution or someone else will be.
During college years, most students will likely want to take on entrepreneurship within their field of expertise, meaning that IT students will most likely be identifying with issues in the tech sector, while finance students will be focusing on the markets, but perhaps want to team up with a technology expert to change how people trade. The ideas are all subjective to what you see, and how you enhance your very own perspective and vision.
I break this down in a very understandable step-by-step book called “Third Circle Theory,” meaning that our awareness is ultimately what allows us to identify a problem. An example would be a finance student who is actively involved in the processes and ways people trade, do banking, or handle finance.
While he may not have the skills to change or adjust the way people interact with money, it is much easier for him to identify the possible challenges or problems that exist within the field, simply because he is aware of them.
An individual in the tech sector may not have enough awareness about finance in order to identify the problems in the field, but might have the skills to be able to create an entire technical infrastructure. The whole idea is that without the problem being identified, there is no solution to create. This is where the two can team up and help re-invent the way people do banking.
Awareness identifies the problem, but often it’s the technical side of thing which create the solution.
This can give birth to a great partnership should there be enough trust and common interest outside of the problem itself to bring people together. The best part about college is that most people are in the same place most of the day, and friends with different backgrounds are often able to come together faster as they share a common playing field with similar levels of business experience.
While college may seem like its focus is on how to make you an effective member of society by giving you a degree which will get you started in the real world, it is also there to help you experiment with your curiosity, interact with others with different skill sets, and enable you to find the resources and discover how you want to spend the next 30 years of your life.
Most people miss this major opportunity, as they feel forced to be in college and forget that simply attending school, and being active within it, are two very different things. It is one of the best opportunities to start, experiment, and fail at various entrepreneurial ventures so that you can make sure that the effort you put in after your college years is worthwhile and no longer a quest for more trial and error.