Wednesday, 10 September 2008

The College Project Startup Challenge...

The other day I was chatting with a bunch of new interns at Microsoft. Like most interns, they were young, ambitious, super smart, and quite clueless!

They were eager for advice and direction from a "seasoned" Microsoftie (me, apparently)...

How to decide what "idea" to work on for my "Project"...

We got talking about their final year projects, and ideas for them.

My basic advice was:
- You're just going from 3rd year to your final year. You now know enough about software to build something that other people might find useful.
- You have all the time in the world... (Cos well... you're in college... and we all know how many lectures final year students attend!)
Now is the time to experiment and see what all there is out there in the software world.

1. Follow the buzz in the blogosphere, and get to know the latest. (You can start with checking out my blogroll)
2. Chase anything that you find interesting and read up all about it. (anything from linux drivers, to Facebook Apps, to game programming, to network protocols etc.)
[Yes, you can, and should "chase" multiple different things]
3. Get your hands dirty, and play around with it. Prototype something!
Now that you know you're way around, you can prototype a couple of ideas, and get better ideas, and keep improving them.

Startup plans anyone?

So then I asked them, does anyone plan to do a startup?

They all looked at me as if I mentioned something like "outer space"... (They'd love to explore the idea, but "know" that they're never gonna do that. Its for them "astronauts", not us regular folks.)

They replied "How can we do a startup!? We don't know enough yet! We don't have enough experience!"

Nidhi : "Entrepreneurship is risky and we cant take such risk!"

Mukul - "But its usually better to work for a couple of years and learn before doing a start up and all na? What's the point of thinking about all this till then?"

Deepank : "A start up involves a lot of luck"...

A couple of issues...

I realised that there were 2 problems here...
1. These people had too much limiting social conditioning that "Startups are only for superstars... Its not for us"
2. They don't realise what an amazing time it is for Web Startups! It has never been easier, cheaper and less risky than today!

Social conditioning...

Me : 6 months ago, did you ever imagine you were gonna be interning at MS?
Interns : *all smiles and starry eyed* Nope... We never imagined we'd be here, doing such cool stuff!
Me : Without hoping/believing or even thinking about the possibility of interning at MS, you guys are here... Imagine what all you guys can do if you'll think about it, and plan it...
You could come up with the next facebook!
Interns : True, but Facebook, is like 0.00001% chance... that's a lot of luck.

You have a whole year of your life, and you need to do a BE/BTech project anyways - why not shoot for the stars!? You might as well build something you enjoy, something you can show off to the world, something you're proud of creating, something that might even take off, and make you rich and famous someday![1]

Startups have never been easier, cheaper and less risky!
(by easier I mean upfront investment in terms of technical and financial resources in getting your idea out.)
Read some Paul Graham!

Why not give yourselves that 0.0001% chance. Whats the worse that will happen? You're app won't take off... At least you'll learn! And have something to show for it. And you'll have no trouble implementing the next big idea that you have.
You might fizzle once, twice, thrice, but the fourth time you'll come up with something awesome!

Otherwise, you always have all these other start ups that are dying to get passionate people like you to work with them!

Imagine having a Final Year project thats live, and being used by thousands of users! I'd rather hire a kid with such experience than the class topper who has zero real world experience.

So go for it! Take up the challenge... Try building something you think you might need. Scratch your own itch if nothing else, and see where things go from there.

But most importantly have fun with it!

[1] You're welcome to give me a percentage of your wealth in exchange for all the inspiration... ; )


Mukul said... keep the posts rolling...really nice reading such inspiring thoughtsl

Yuri said...

Dude !!
Have u Started-up yet ??
like the blog.. ssup wid u ( L&T has blocked ur about me page )

Udayan Khurana said...

Thanks for the advice :P

Pratik Stephen said...

@udayan : You're welcome buddy! ; ) Dont forget the last line of the post...([1]).
: )

@yuri : Hey! Ssup?! Thanks! Glad you like the blog. : )
This blog has slowed down a lil... My other blog is more active lately...
I'm with MS right now... still incubating ideas... ; )