By Paddy Padmanabhan
So was it all a waste of time—a lost year that I will never get back?
The answer is clearly a NO. What I gave up in earnings through a steady salary, I more than made up for given the experience I had: working with limited resources, building a platform, winning the first few clients (even though they didn’t pay much), pitching investors (unsuccessfully), having theological debates with the co-founder (won some / lost some), and eventually deciding to go back to a corporate job.
So: Nine months of learning about business, foregoing a steady salary, and moving on to a corporate job. What does that sound like? You guessed it: an MBA.
A lot of entrepreneurs go straight from school to a startup. Others give up a job to pursue their dreams. Some become very successful at what they set out to do, others don’t. Regardless, they earn a post-graduate degree, especially if they apply themselves sincerely to building the business. Here are some courses you attend (whether you know it or not) as a “university” student in a startup:
- Finance: A successful business earns more than it spends. Nothing else matters.
- Economics: There is an opportunity cost for everything. Your friend from grad school drives a fancy new car and just took his girlfriend on a Caribbean cruise. Your former colleague got promoted to VP and just took an Italian vacation with his wife and three kids. You are eating Ramen noodles and testing bugs in code late at night.
- Marketing: Making people want what you have. It’s hard to get people to care, sadly—even the ones you manage to reach with your message.
- Sales: Converting mild interest to a signed contract to use your product. In the unlikely event that you do get someone to agree to use your product, try convincing them to pay you for your product. Oh, and your sales rep quit after two weeks, so you’re the company’s bag-carrying rep for the foreseeable future.
- Supply chain management: Staffing and resourcing your project. You need product out on the street in six weeks, and your only Python expert just quit to launch her own startup.
Graduation Day comes around when:
- A customer agrees to pay a fair price for your product.
- A VC decides to back you with an $8M round.
- An established company will hire you despite (or more likely because of) your startup experience, even if it was a failure. There’s no telling when, or even if, you will graduate.
So, what kind of “degree” are you working on?