One of the most popular questions at the Atlanta Tech Village is if our community is comprised of early twenty-somethings that are fresh out of college. While we do have several of those, our average age is around 30 with plenty of entrepreneurs in their 40s, 50s, and 60s. While there are outlier success stories of entrepreneurs going straight from college to startup CEO, I’m a fan of entrepreneurs-to-be working at a startup for a few years before starting their own company. Personally, I went straight from college to startup CEO and made a ton of mistakes I could have learned on someone else’s dime.
Here are a few lessons learned going into the startup CEO role with no real world experience:
- Culture is King – The tendency coming out of college is to focus on people that can get the job done — not people that meet the core values and get the job done (this is my most important lesson learned).
- Sales is Hard – Even the best products require extensive sales and marketing, which is difficult to appreciate without experiencing it first-hand. Acquiring customers is much harder than expected.
- Everything takes Longer – As an entrepreneur I like to rush things and move quickly. Only, most of the world doesn’t operate that way and everything takes longer than expected — much longer than expected.
- Multiple Iterations Required – Every successful venture I’ve been involved with started out doing something different from what they ultimately ended up doing. Don’t expect the first idea to work.
Going straight from college student to startup CEO is hard. Seeking mentors, peer entrepreneurs, and studying lessons learned will help increase the chance of success.
What else? What are some more thoughts on going from college student to startup CEO?