I was recently selected to be a mentor in Georgia Tech’s new program, Startup Semester. Honestly, my first thought was of the Groucho Marx quote: “I don’t want to belong to any club that would have me as a member.” The fact that I don’t have any big exits or successes under my belt makes my credentials a little dubious, but at the same time, the fact that I’m living the entrepreneur life every day makes my perspective all the more apropos.
Startup Semester is a 10 week program for undergraduates at Tech to explore going from idea to business. Participants will get mentoring, workspace, and some instruction on how to run a company. To quote from the website:
Starting from a grassroots initiative to make entrepreneurship much more accessible to undergraduates, we’re launching a program that will help you turn your idea into an awesome startup.
For my part, I’ll be advising the participants in any way I can regarding getting a new business off the ground, which usually comes down to “Work harder! Launch sooner!”
I’m cautiously optimistic about the prospect of mentoring young tech entrepreneurs. I feel that I have a lot of experience to share based on my time with Obsidian Portal and The Agile League. Unfortunately, the sum of my experience is to discourage most people from being entrepreneurs. I honestly don’t think it’s a good life for most people. Instead, it’s really only suited to those who otherwise can’t avoid it.
I often advise starry-eyed college kids to go out and get jobs in the corporate world. If they like it, then forget about entrepreneurship and just enjoy the job. This advice surprised a friend of mine who said, “But I thought you hated those kinds of jobs?” My reply was that I’m actually envious of those people. My distaste for that kind of work environment forces me to pursue a line of work with a lot of instability and risk. If you can love punching a clock from 9 to 5 every day, you’ll live a much happier life than your average entrepreneur.
Still, I’m going to try and censor my cynicism and instead provide a positive influence for the program participants. I won’t cheerily feed them the standard “Follow your dreams!” mularky, but I will also refrain from smashing their dreams. I will just focus on the core of entrepreneurship: Hard work. If I can help inspire someone to put nose to the grindstone and ignore all the hype then I’ll consider it a job well done.