Never in history, has being an entrepreneur been so trendy. The generation that will graduate soon don't dream of a career working for a big corporation anymore. They want to create their own startup.
Starting a company definitely feels easier than ever too. And while I guess there's some truth in that affirmation, there's a big difference between founding a company and getting it off the ground. The later is as hard as it ever was. Heck, maybe the massive competition going on has even made it tougher.
I accepted to be part of a panel of entrepreneurs organised by an association named "Entrepreneurs Academy", here in Uppsala. This association provides a structure for students who are interested in entrepreneurship.
During this panel, the following question was asked:
"After graduating, should I take a first job or start a company?"
This wasn't the first time I was asked this question, so I thought I'd share my answer on this blog.
If you ask yourself this question, you might not be ready
Ouch. This is probably a bit tough to read but I've got to say this. I belong to this (old school?) group of entrepreneurs who believe entrepreneurship isn't a career path. Being an entrepreneur is who I am.
Sure, I've worked for "the man" before. Three times to be exact. There are tons of benefits to joining a company as an employee. The salary, the so-called work-life balance, the opportunity to learn while being remunerated (see bellow).
When I did, something was missing. I felt frustrated. I felt like I was wasting my time. It felt wrong.
Now, you might be experiencing this feeling yourself.
Then go for it!
But on the other hand if you don't, maybe you should wait a bit for your project to mature or for your desire to grow.
Don't be romantic: do you have a skill you can leverage?
Ouch ouch. This one isn't nice to read either.
"Do you already have a skill you can leverage?"
It's extremely hard to build a company on an idea only.
After all, everybody has ideas.
It's hard to raise money, it's hard to find cofounders and it's hard to keep the company afloat if you can't trade your skills for money to (temporarily) pay the bills.
Having one concrete skill will help you negotiate. Negotiate with investors and negotiate with potential cofounders. Having a concrete skill should also be used to do some consulting in order to pay the bills and bootstrap your way.
If you don't have this skill yet or if you still need to train and develop it, take the job. It's the way to go.
A first job can also be a way to experience starting a business with limited risks.. if you pick the right job.
A first job: a competitive advantage?
With more and more startups created every day, the opportunities to work for a freshly registered company are numerous.
The earlier you join a startup, the closer you will be to the founding team. You'll experience first hand the pitfalls and rewards. I mean, you'll experience first hand the emotional rollercoaster ride that comes with having responsibilities at a startup.
You'll get some experience by only taking a little risk and by the time you decide to take the leap, you won't be starting from zero.
Approach this question without too much solemnity.
Whichever choice you'll make won't be totally bad, nor good and both options are valid. Nowadays, having a company started to your track record won't be a drawback for an employer. It might even be a positive point.
And if you decide to go and take this first job, you'll still remain free to put a stop to it and start your own venture whenever you'll feel more ready.
So put your focus back on your studies and see you in a few months :)