It has been 9 months since I submitted a final paper for my entrepreneurship concentration. Since then, I have scratched out the beginnings of a new venture. The initial team included Daytime MBA ’14 Manav Tandon, fellow Weekend Executive MBA student Ashwin Manekar, and Duke Law School student Beau Epperly. Of the initial 4, Beau and I were the only ones to tackle this venture full-time. We formed a corporation, All9s, designed our first product, completed an accelerator program (i.e., Groundworklabs), hired our first employees, and built a proof of concept.
The transition from employee at a large corporation to founder at a struggling new venture has seemed perilous at times. I do not think I would have ventured this far without the knowledge I gained from the entrepreneurship classes that were a part of my MBA concentration. There were a couple of key points shared by Professor Jon Fjeld during one of the entrepreneurship workshops, which still resonate with me.
- You will be poor – We are still searching for our first paying customer. Investors do not fund companies until they have customers and a product. It is up to me to figure out how to get that to happen without outside funding.
- There is never a good time to start a company – I am surprised and disappointed by the number of people I meet who desperately want to start a company, but only after the company has customers, a product and funding. If that describes you, you do not want to start a company — you want to be an employee.
Entrepreneurship is about taking risk. The professors and advisors you meet at Fuqua will help you turn this into a calculated risk; however, nobody will eliminate that risk for you. Eliminating that risk and building a successful company is what it means to be founder.
Going through the entrepreneurship concentration gave me the courage to walk away from a lucrative job without knowing what to expect. For me it is still early in the company building process, and there are still no guarantees about how this will turn out. Having said that, the past few months have been thrilling, and I have never felt more alive.
If you want to learn more about what we are doing at All9s, feel free to drop me a note at firstname.lastname@example.org.