You might think that university is a time to study, meet new people, and enjoy the last remaining years before joining the busy working world. However, there are thousands of young, driven individuals who see this time as a launch pad to a successful entrepreneurial career. Granted, your time is limited by various obligations, but any current businessperson will tell you that there is no ‘right’ time – simply whenever you feel you can give your project 110%.
One advantage to starting your endeavour whilst in university, is that you’ve got a lot more time and opportunities to figure out exactly what you want to achieve, learn from mistakes, and test out your product or service on thousands of nearby potential customers. Plus, you’ve got a ton of networking opportunities right on your doorstep.
The story of how Facebook began life as a dorm room project is well-documented, especially in the fantastic 2010 movie The Social Network, but there are other examples of companies that took their first steps when the founders were studying. These serve as great cases of putting your ideas into reality when others around you may still be dreaming.
What it lacks in beautiful web design, it makes up for in content. Reddit may have the simplest of looks, but if there’s a conversation you want to start or join with strangers over the world, there isn’t a better place than Reddit. The website is also famous for its AMA (Ask Me Anything) threads, in which celebrities or simply people with interesting tales to tell, can answer any burning questions the world may have (Madonna, Will Ferrell, Matt Damon, Snoop Dogg and Barack Obama have all taken part in an AMA).
Created by Steve Huffman and Alexis Ohanian from the University of Virginia, the two originally had a somewhat general business idea of a mobile food ordering service, yet wisely switched to their backup idea of a digital bulletin board that is now Reddit. The push to change came from Paul Graham, a co-founder of seed accelerator company Y Combinator, and Reddit was eventually created in only three weeks. Condé Nast eventually bought the website in 2006 for close to $20 million.
What originally started as a way for co-founder Susan Gregg Koger to simply shift some items from her wardrobe and make a little bit of money, quickly turned into a massive online retailer for vintage women’s clothing and accessories. Assisted by now-husband Eric Koger, the two took time off studying to visit trade shows, so as to grasp an idea of how to effectively build a clothing e-store. The Kogers graduated from Carnegie Mellon, but still ModCloth grew and grew and has now exceeded $100 million in sales.
Though the thought of creating an ecommerce website seems effortless by today’s standards with modern possibilities like this, ModCloth was lucky that Eric had programming and design skills and was able to make a complete website from scratch around 2007. Since then, the operation has gone from the basement of the couple’s college house to employing hundreds of workers in three locations in the USA: San Francisco, Los Angeles and Pittsburgh. For those with further interest, the full story of ModCloth has been covered by Mashable.
The Onion first started life as a free paper created at the University of Wisconsin by Chris Johnson and Tim Keck. After receiving an $8,000 loan from Keck’s mother, The Onion was launched in a dorm room and quickly became a massive hit on the university’s campus. Strangely though, the two founders actually sold the company for $19,000 after one year, yet the online version flourished in safe hands and has since become one of the most popular satirical news websites on the internet.