Startups matter more than ever. We live in a society where people pay more and more attention to entrepreneurship, startups and innovation. As a Student Entrepreneur (SE), I have suffered from several crucial problems when it comes to entrepreneurship and I’m determined to share my mistakes with other SEs before they come to the field.
1. Too many entrepreneurship activities
Since 2015, startups have been all the rage in Hong Kong. The rage has spread across professionals, the businessmen and the university students. Students are motivated to start a venture, form a team and run a business. There are plenty of activities such as Cyberport University Partnership Programme and National Challenge Cup for SEs.
Amusingly, we can make new friends, learn entrepreneurship, acquire new experience to enrich university life. Universities such as City University of Hong Kong and Hong Kong Polytechnic University even have seed investment over HK$100,000 and incubation programmes for their students to start the venture.
These initiatives do encourage entrepreneurship across Hong Kong. As a student entrepreneur, we have to save time to chase growth rather than awards and certificates although my team, Freedropluckily received an a ward from Hong Kong Techathon 2018 last week. As student entreprneurs, you have to compete with real businessmen from everywhere rather than the college-mate sitting next to you.
We have limited resources, knowledge and experiences to succeed in a venture. We have no chance to win the game if we spend time on abundant activities. Worse still, grants or assistance from the activities always have unclear terms about the project ownership and intellectual property. Bear in mind that we’re chasing our own KPI for the venture and the only mission is growth.
2. College-mate as Partner
Indeed, universities are excellent place to look for partners. In university, we have friends from business, computer sciences, law, social sciences and creative media with various talents.
To win a competition, business students are indispensable. To develop a product, programmers and designers are crucial. There is no other place where you can look for all kinds of talents you need in the world. We can look for college-mates from various background to start a venture together.
However, it is another common mistake most student entrepreneurs make. A startup is a tough venture and we have to be 200% dedicated, even 100% is insufficient. We have to quit part-time jobs and internships, avoid party, travel, and focus on the venture plus academic work.
In fact, most of the students and even adults are not ready to commence an authentic venture. Most of the friends we’ve met in entrepreneurship activities are not ready yet, and the one whom you share the dream with is probably not ready as well. That’s why, I advise you against looking for partners from university. If you’ve got a solid team and worked over 6 months with other student entrepreneurs, please thank them and share this article with them.
3. Equity > Payment
Apparently, student entrepreneurs have limited resources, knowledge, and experience to run a business. We often suffer from stupid mistakes and face same problems with experienced entrepreneurs.
Most of us invest pocket money and small salary from part-time jobs in the business. Nobody will complain if a student entrepreneur cannot pay salary to his / her partners. However, you shall not assume that no salary is plausible to your partners and your business.
Your friends can complete an assignment or a project for free. Nevertheless, they can never solve tough tasks, be rejected over 100 times, and smile at you for free. They will be motivated when the team obtains an award or certificate at the beginning. When time goes by and the business has no further advancement, they will get another part-time job, freelance work, internship or another team although they still own your shares.
You’ll be desperate and frustrated. Remember that your friends don’t care about equity when you as a student entrepreneur cannot prove you can get funded. Here the key is to pay your partner. When everyone assumes a student entrepreneur cannot pay a salary, you shall better offer both equity and salary — even HK$100/day! — to your partners. Then, they’ll be afraid of missing any deadline and meeting.
Don’t get a volunteer for your venture, even if you have no adequate resources. Believe it or not, the HK$100 is a worthy investment and it will return more.
I’m always delighted to make friends who’re running a venture, facing problems and we share my startup, Freedrop, and ideas with one another. Whenever I encounter new student entrepreneurs, I’m glad to share these three mistakes with them. Now, I would like to share the mistakes with friends I’ve not met yet. Good Luck !
Jason NG is Co-founder of Freedrop, winnner of Hong Kong Techathon 2018, 100 Finalists of Elevator Pitch 2016, Final-year Student in City University of Hong Kong.
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