My post-university years turned into a crash course in entrepreneurship and startups.
I opted not to do a masters in favour of attempting to build a startup of my own.
That didn’t go that well, but it did lead me to Founder Institute, a program that trains entrepreneurs over the course of 4-6 months.
Founder Institute gave me a group of entrepreneur peers, and a network of mentors willing to help.
It also gave me a wide base of entrepreneurship knowledge.
The new startup that came out of that program didn’t work out either, but the contacts I made there would lead me to my next job.
That job? An associate with Techstars Boston. Techstars is a well-known tech accelerator. They bring in 10-15 companies for 4 months and give them resources to speed up their growth.
Along with 8 or so other associates, we handled some of the administrative stuff for Techstars, and did whatever we could to help the startups.
That meant I got to see the struggles, try and solve problems, and learn a lot about different industries. We also got exposure to another exceptional group of mentors.
After Techstars Boston, I continued working with some of the people I’d met there, but it didn't last long.
I ended up joining one of the startups that had come out of Founder Institute—Lean Systems—in a cofounder role.
We got accepted to Techstars New York as part of their Winter 2017 cohort. We went through a similar accelerator program to Techstars Boston, this time as one of the companies.
It was another 4-month program of a lot of work, meeting amazing entrepreneurs, and learning and pushing hard to grow our company.
Eventually, that startup wouldn’t work out either. I moved on to join yet another company founded during Founder Institute called Unito.
In hindsight, my journey post-university seems well-planned. I got to see startup scenes in two major tech cities, get exposed to hundreds of different companies and founders, and learn while attempting to apply the lessons myself.
In reality, I had no idea what would come next, but I was choosing the options where I was most likely to learn.
The crash course I got in startups taught me all kinds of tactical things. It built a broad knowledge base of all the components required to build companies. It gave me exposure to the kinds of people that build successful companies too.
The main lessons I left with:
Everyone is figuring it out as they go. First-time founders almost always have one insight and specific skills, but quickly have to figure out things like hiring and finance. And they all do. They tackle problems as they come and keep moving forward.
Ruthless execution is the norm. Founders of venture-backed tech startups are obsessive problem-solvers. They're impatient, pushing the boundaries of how fast something can finished, or doing it themselves in the beginning. Once you get used to this kind of speed, it’s hard to do anything else.
You can choose what kind of founder/manager to be. The vast, vast majority of the founders I worked with, regardless of how successful, were extremely kind, considerate people. Some of them were more frank or brash than others, but very few fit the model of the domineering, bossy founder.
Startups are hard. There were a lot of brilliant people I worked with who had startups which didn't work out. So many things have to go right that are outside your control.
I don’t know where my career will take me over the next 5 years.
But I hope it involves as much learning as my post-university crash course in tech and startups.