Dropping out?

Deciding to drop out? Wait!

Deciding to drop out? Wait!

Being one of the first entrepreneurs from a lesser known engineering college, I am often looked up and approached by batchmates and students of subsequent batches for suggestions on whether to join a job (or look for one), start a small web development studio out of home or a shack with a friend, freelance, pursue a post-graduate course, etc.

It’s interesting to know that a lot of folks *wish* to start their own *business*. That does sound great. Especially, if you’re skillful and can write code, there is no dearth of opportunities on the web to make money. More often than not, you’ll end up making anything over an above 500$ which may be higher than your first salary, in most cases. The pleasures that come associated with it include – working from home/ cafe, deciding on your own timings, no one to boss you around, et al. Not long before all this may appear to be a bubble if you’re good *only* at writing code and not essentially great at doing a *business*. I have examples with me. That is *just* one reason for boredom or moving on from doing freelance work or putting up a startup. There may be many more. Having said that, the journey is no doubt challenging and at the same time, interesting for those who wish to take a plunge.

We can talk endlessly about it. However, I came across a case when a student from my alma mater (someone who would be a couple of years junior to me) got in touch and asked, “I have been picking up web projects online and doing well. I now have 2 of my friends working with me. Should I drop out to continue my business? Does this degree make sense?”.

At the offset, I was surprised by the passion he had. I could understand the fun he had making couple of hundred dollars every month, being an under graduate. The curse he had for the institute that would not allow him to ignore classes and ensure the bare minimum attendance. He had his head held high for he had won several hearts within and outside the college.

Coming back to his question. It took me back in time when I had a fairly similar landscape. Just that I was not trying to build a career into programming the web, but documenting/ publishing about it. I had secured a job out of campus placements into one of the great IT companies. I had no plans to be an entrepreneur for the first 2 years of my engineering course. Even after I was doing fairly good at freelancing while being a sophomore, I *never* thought of dropping out. Ever. Despite of running for life and air when it came to attending classes and touching the mandatory attendance benchmarks, I was keen at making sure that I see through the 4 years of an engineering course. Not that I complain, even today.

I may not be using most of what I was taught/ delivered at the engineering college. But it does give me a lot of confidence to do something on my own. It gives a good feeling when you shape your thoughts into ideas that work. A professional course teaches you how to give that shape. It trains you well enough to address people and more importantly, understand them. It helps you speak in public, if and when needed. More than anything else, it does make sense when you meet someone and he/ she happens to ask you about your academic background. You may not be a graduate from a tier 1 institute, but having pursued a course is no less. In most ways, better than NOT completing it.

In one of the most saddening incidents of my life, I had to drop out of a premier institute, on the grounds of low attendance. It was then, that I could have dropped out and started to do something else. However, I realized early (with the help of some close friends, family and the internet) that there is no shortcut and it makes no sense. No wonder that the entire decision of graduating as an engineer from a different college was kindled by a character in my ex-college. I *did* drop out but then decided to complete the degree. Today, when I look back, I feel glad for what I did.

A lot of people suggest that one should chance upon entrepreneurship after having worked for a few years in an organization. Yeah, that does make sense. But to me, that’s not necessary. A lot of things can be learnt online or otherwise in books. Self confidence is built and basics are often taught at under-graduate levels, across the world. Which to me, are mandatory. Anything beyond, you may choose to learn on your own, at a large organization or at a startup. Vivek Wadhwa, a Visiting Scholar at School of Information, UC-Berkeley wrote a couple of interesting posts last year on the idea of dropping out. I feel you *must* read them, if you’re a student. One of them was – You’re probably not Mark Zukerberg, so stay in school!

Just to close, life is not as short (as they say), so why rush into things? In case you’re not the next Mark Zukerberg but end up having a good education, you’ll not hurt many people. At least not your family, before anyone else.

Reconsider your decision. Cheers! Tangy Tuesday Post

Image credits: Matt Niemi


Paul Graham’s essay on Ramen Profitable

This being the last week on the year 2011, I am pretty much in a GTD mode – read most of what my “Instapaper” account and Google reader have as notes and bookmarked items; publish more than half a dozen half baked posts across 3 blogs; list down the 3 resolutions (I am closing in on 2, almost, already), etc.

While I was reading an interesting essay by Paul Graham, I was deeply touched by these 2 insights;

At any given time there tends to be one problem that’s the most urgent for a startup. This is what you think about as you fall asleep at night and when you take a shower in the morning. And when you start raising money, that becomes the problem you think about. You only take one shower in the morning, and if you’re thinking about investors during it, then you’re not thinking about the product.

Whereas if you can choose when you raise money, you can pick a time when you’re not in the middle of something else, and you can probably also insist that the round close fast. You may even be able to avoid having the round occupy your thoughts, if you don’t care whether it closes.

Is there a downside to ramen profitability? Probably the biggest danger is that it might turn you into a consulting firm. Startups have to be product companies, in the sense of making a single thing that everyone uses. The defining quality of startups is that they grow fast, and consulting just can’t scale the way a product can. But it’s pretty easy to make $3000 a month consulting; in fact, that would be a low rate for contract programming. So there could be a temptation to slide into consulting, and telling yourselves you’re a ramen profitable startup, when in fact you’re not a startup at all.

If you’re a startupper or wish to be one, I am sure this would strike some chords. Do shout back!


Startup Lunch Delhi

Ever thought of being part of the next big business idea? If yes, this is for you!

Event Info

Host: Proto.in

Type: MeetingsBusiness Meeting


Time and Place

Date: Saturday, September 6, 2008

Time: 10:00am – 5:00pm

Location: Amity – Noida

City/Town: Delhi, India

A Startup is probably the best place to be at for a fresher or for a professional who is looking for a career boost or to experience rapid growth. But the issue is that most people are not aware as to where to find these startups, neither are these startups able to be part of campus recruitment processes because of their small size.

The Basic Questions:

What is a Startup? A Startup is a company which is in its early stage of growth. It is most probably the founder of the company with a small team of five to ten people (or maybe less) working hard at a fabulous problem and to grow. There are two ways a startup could go: a) Really really big, or b) Go nowhere. The option is that you learn a lot from being part of a small group of people since you learn everything related to running a company and everything that goes on, which is an experience you will never get working for a corporate, and also if the startup grows big, you make a lot of money along with the founders.

What does it mean to work for a Startup? It would mean:

1. A committed job which would be an amazing place for passionate people
2. Slightly long hours of work
3. A very tightly knit team which is dedicated, passionate and probably the smartest set of people you will meet.
4. Slightly lower salaries
5. High Payback options on success

Who all can be part of this Startup Lunch? If you believe you do possess the skills to contribute to a Startup, you are more than welcome to put-in your name. Some of the verticals you might be coming from are:
* Programmers
* Marketers
* Visual Communication
* Animators
* Etc.

How Does this work?

The principle is roughly the same as the SpeedDating concept. The startup founders are seated on one side and the candidates get to say hello and have a quick conversation to talk about what the background of the founder is, why he started the company and what sort of person he is looking for, while asking questions to the candidate about the reason to join a startup and what his/her passions are and ten minutes later the same process continues with the next founder. Within an hour, you would have met/spoken to most of the startups, and by the end of the day would know whom to get in touch with for your first/next job.

So, what’s Cooking? Delhi Startup Lunch 3 is!
The Delhi Startup Lunch 3 is ready to be served on 6th September 2008.
We invite new & young businesses (Startups) and Candidates from Delhi + NCR region to participate.

More details about the event and the online registration process is available on the wiki page. If you decide to be a part of the event, you contact me or either of these guys to get any information you wish to have.

Abhishek (abhishekb@zoomtra.com)
Avinash (avinash@routeguru.com)
Vishal (vishalg76@gmail.com)
Praval (catchme@praval.com)

Praval is a web evangelist and marketer with Uswaretech.com, a Django web application development shop.