We all know what it's like to soul-search, but no one does it quite so well as recent college graduates, many of whom entertain dreams of Mark Zuckerberg-sized success. We asked 13 successful young start-up founders (not so long out of college themselves) to share their wisdom with new graduates seriously interested in entrepreneurship. Here are their most valuable pieces of advice:
1. Do Something!
Many graduates think there is a perfect opportunity out there, and they want to wait for it. The truth of the matter is that even if that opportunity does exist, they wouldn't recognize it by just waiting. The key is to do something, ideally in a field you are interested in, and start to learn. By doing something, you will realize your real interests and uncover the perfect opportunity to pursue. --Chris Hunter, Phusion Projects
2. Learn to Implement
You can be the best big picture thinker in the world, but if you can't implement (or build a team that can), your ideas are worthless. I would tell every graduate to think about how she can begin to implement on the smallest scale possible, validate, then scale. --Kelsey Meyer, Influence & Co.
3. Find a Lesson in Every Experience
I'm a firm believer that you can learn from every experience you have--good or bad. Whether you're working for a gigantic corporation in a cubicle or traveling the world as a freelance Web designer, pay attention to what's happening around you and see how it can apply to your own life and career.
--Tim Jahn, matchist
4. Appreciate the Power of Marketing
Peter Drucker said, "Marketing and innovation produce results; all the rest are costs." History is littered with superior products that never made it to mainstream commerce because no one ever knew about them. Marketing is the most important function of business. Never underestimate its importance.
--Charles Gaudet, Predictable Profits
5. Come up With Unique Ideas
Think long and hard about what makes your idea unique. It doesn't have to be new, but it has to be innovative or have a twist from what is in the market. We live in a world where it is easier than ever to start up, so what makes you so special?
--John Meyer, Lemon.ly
6. Interview People Who Have Started Up Before
Take a summer to do informational interviews with anyone you admire. Learn from other people's career paths. Connect with them to develop your network. Ask them if there's anyone else you can connect with to help with your exploratory career journey. We all know what it's like to face big questions like the ones people face after graduating. For that reason, people are willing to help you. --Brett Farmiloe, Digital Marketing Agency
7. Take a Corporate Job First
I never planned on starting my own company, but five years in corporate America were enough to make me swear off ever having another boss! But I learned a lot more in those years than I did in college. A traditional job will give you insight into what you don't want your company to become and teach you skills to navigate real-world situations. Think of it as training on someone else's dime! --Brittany Hodak, 'ZinePak
8. Start Up Now
If you're like I was when I graduated, then you're broke, living with your parents, and looking at entry-level positions at best. Couple that with a lack of responsibilities (spouse, kids, mortgage), and you'll realize that now is the perfect time to try your luck at entrepreneurship. The longer you wait and the more comfort and responsibilities you accumulate, the harder it will become. --Nicolas Gremion, Free-eBooks.com
9. Be Transparent
Share as much information as possible. No one is going to steal your idea. The feedback you receive is well worth the risk of sharing your idea with others. Be transparent with both your potential clients and employees. Transparency builds trust and loyalty. Don't be afraid to make yourself a little vulnerable. Be real, be yourself, and people will respect and appreciate your approach. --Mitch Gordon, Go Overseas
10. Dream Big
Dream big and focus. Your company or career can only be as big as you think it can be. People perish for a lack of vision. Have a vision and don't limit it. Never be afraid to go for it! Sometimes the best way into the water is just jumping in.
--Adam DeGraide, Astonish
11. Don't Try To Be Zuckerberg
I cringe every time I hear a recent graduate say he has the next billion-dollar idea. Maybe he does, but that's not the point. Creating a lifestyle business is just as good and probably easier than having the next billion-dollar idea. Your idea doesn't have to be unique or sexy; you just have to be able to execute and do what you said you would. --Trace Cohen, Launch.it
12. Reach out to Alumni
Reach out to alumni who are entrepreneurs and have started their own businesses. It doesn't matter how big or small their businesses are. Connecting with them will be extremely valuable. They are an instant support system. --Thomas Cullen, LaunchPad Lab
13. Solve a Problem
Whatever you decide to do as a business, always start with a problem that a specific category of people have or one that you have experienced. Do not start up because market research states great potential for your industry or because you feel you can do a better job at what others are doing. Go the extra mile in finding out what is troubling people, and then build your product to address that. --Rahul Varshneya, Arkenea