Working for Start-Ups
Start-ups are everywhere these days. In a place as intellectually vibrant as Harvard, sometimes it feels as though everyone is trying to create the next big thing – and maybe all it takes is a good idea at the right time. OCS recently held an event with a panel full of young entrepreneurs who offered wisdom and encouragement to those interested in starting their own company in any field.
Thinking of becoming an entrepreneur?
First, you need a passion.
“Don’t do the things you “think” you should be doing,” advised panelist Hugo Van Vuuren, co-founder at The Experimental Fund, “because you might be missing out on the things you really love doing.”
Panelist Stephanie Kaplan ’10, co-founder of HerCampus magazine, echoed this sentiment. “Do something you’re that you’re excited about – not just something that seems like it could have potential, even if you’re not necessarily interested in it.”
Next, entrepreneurship requires flexibility.
Don’t expect is a smooth, clear professional trajectory.
“I had a sort of ADHD career with a lot of random pursuits,” Van Vuuren said, “and a lot of the time it was hard.” However, something that helped Hugo map out his path and found his company was a series of mentors. “Most people underestimate the value of mentors early in life,” he explained. “But you should really work closely with them and learn from them.”
Flexibility in the office is a requirement, too: Your daily duties can change at any time depending on where the company goes. “You get to wear a lot of different hats and do a lot of different things, which is actually nice,” Kathryn Kosuda, co-founder of Vaxess Technology, explained. “But you have to be someone who is willing to work hard and to work in uncertain environments.” Kaplan reinforced this idea. “You have to be flexible in what you’re doing,” she said. “You can’t just say I’m an “x” kind of person, so I have to do this. Things aren’t always going to go as planned, and you have to adapt and figure it out.”
How do you get started? Kosuda emphasized the importance of knowing what’s going on around you. “Keep your eyes open for all kinds of opportunities,” she encouraged. “If there’s a particular project that you’re passionate about, contact the company, even just to volunteer your time to get involved. Go to the i-lab programs. Get your foot in the door and meet people.”
Finally, “never forget the importance of networking,” advised Christine Rizk, co-founder of the Fashion Project. “If you’re starting your own project or your own company, you should first start talking to people and collaborating with them. Get feedback. There are a lot of people in the Boston area who are into entrepreneurship and start-ups. Your job is to go out and find them.”
Julia Eger, ’14