What was your experience starting a company in grad school? originally appeared on Quora: the place to gain and share knowledge, empowering people to learn from others and better understand the world.
My co-founder Jenny Xia Spradling and I started together in our fifth week of business school at Stanford's GSB. It turned out to be an enormously fortuitous time and place to do it.
Yes, running a full-time business while also a full-time grad student had its drawbacks. We certainly went to fewer social events (though for my introverted co-founder, this may have been a plus!) And sometimes classwork took a backseat to closing our first partnership agreement or hiring the first members of our team.
But there are some huge advantages:
- The cost of failure is sharply reduced. If FreeWill went belly-up in six months, we could always walk into other jobs. And there is less economic opportunity cost because we otherwise wouldn't be working.
- The access to advice is so much larger than we'd get elsewhere. We were so fortunate to bring real-time problems to professors who were both experts in their field and eager to help. Many of these people would cost hundreds of dollars an hour as consultants (or simply be inaccessible), so being able to grab them for ten minutes after class was super helpful.
- Classmates are down to help. We had really, really smart classmates who wanted startup experience but did not want to make this their life. They were thrilled to jump in for weeks or months at a time and helped make major advances in the company.
- Note: Points 2 & 3 are especially true if you're running a mission-driven company.
- It made classes better. While some of my classmates were bored out of their minds in accounting, I was devouring the material as I needed to make sure our quarterly balance sheet wasn't rife with mistakes. We probably learned more from B-school as a result of being entrepreneurs the full way through.
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