International Students / Businessmen

Jan 2013

(Based on a conversation at SEP Reunion)

 

“A journey of a thousand miles must begin with a single step.”

— Lao Tzu

 

“Do not follow where the path may lead. Go instead where there is no path and leave a trail.”

— Ralph Waldo Emerson

 

I was asked what it’s like to launch a startup on another continent? I haven’t really done it yet so I don’t know but I do know in a few days, we’re about to become “international businessmen.” It’s that line you see in movies a lot.

What that means is we got into an accelerator program. A few of them actually. I’m about to get on a plane to Santiago, Chile. Later we’re supposed to be going to Copenhagen, Denmark. Then to Palo Alto, California then back to Melbourne Australia.

The plan is to try and use the programs to launch on more than one continent by the end of the year, get a lot of engineering done and raise some money without giving away any equity.

It means by the time we get back we should be ready for investment. We’ve been bootstrapped so far and if I’m honest, I don’t even really know how to raise money or even if it’s a good thing.

My understanding of raising money is you just harass someone philosophically aligned with you until they give you money for a percentage of the company. Then they help in any way they can, usually by introducing you to people.

What I’m hoping for is we just keep going and one day someone realises how good we are and makes us a great offer. We would probably take it in a second. Most of the offers we’ve gotten so far have been pretty bad.

But the big achievement is crossing the startup chasm. The flake hurdle where it stops being about whether the startup will succeed or not, instead how big is it going to succeed.

 

If I’m honest, I don’t think I really want to travel. The downside is all the things you miss out on when you do. We’re also in the unique position to be able to talk about what it’s like to do a startup while in university. I just finished my first year of a computer science degree at RMIT and that has 3 years left on it. We’re also in a heavily regulated medical field. So a tad anomalous that we’re juggling all these things that are startup killers but still seem to be doing ok.

Doing a startup while in university is great and awful at the same time. It’s exhausting but I’d recommend it to anyone, the same way doing anything hard but worthwhile leaves you tired but also happy, like you’re accomplishing something. It alternates back and forth between being exciting and depressing. The best way to describe the feeling is it’s like you are being stretched and pulled in every direction. Like there is never enough time to do everything.

The upside beyond the obvious financial motivation is you get to work on something you like and feel like you’re doing something more important than just yourself. Another upside is I get lots of job offers and lots of people seem to take me seriously even though I usually don’t know what I’m talking about.

You don’t even really notice the upside until it hits you. The turning point for me was when I took an entrepreneurship course at uni and seemed to be more qualified than the lecturer.

The downside. I failed 3 out of 7 subjects last year, ironically one of them was an Entrepreneurship subject – academic entrepreneurship is very different from doing a startup. Social life suffers. Was living on campus and still barely saw anyone. You’re constantly distracted and there is always a kind of heaviness that goes along with you. The same kind of heaviness if you were always thinking about something peripherally constantly. Like it’s a background process that is just always there.

 

You end up missing out on a lot when you travel. To the agony of my parents, deferred university for 6 months. Girlfriend and I thought it would be best to take a break since we wouldn’t have time to spend together. And so ended a relationship with the most amazing girl ever. The night I left was one of the saddest moments of my life.

I’m not going to see my family for a long time. This is a bigger deal than it sounds since my grandparents are nearing the end of their life and I feel like I never have enough time to spend with them. More or less you miss things that make you happy.

So in a way the worst part about travel is the opportunity cost. Opportunity cost is one of the most terrifying ideas ever. Because implicit in it is that you don’t completely know what you missed out on.

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