Ten years of student entrepreneurship

Since being a student at UW in 2012…to now ten years later, I have always been involved in student entrepreneurship. I’ve seen probably hundreds of students enter this space, try things, fail at things, grow, and find joy and passion. I’ve also watched people try it, and realize it’s not for them. And that’s totally okay.

When I look back at the last ten years, I see through lines in cohorts of student entrepreneurs. There are consistencies and reincarnations of people, ideas, and goals. There are the loud students who love the chance to pitch and share, who need to learn to be quiet and listen. There are the timid but strong students, who need to learn to share their ideas and thoughts with conviction. There are the ones who are ping ponging around a dozen ideas a minute, and there’s someone who’s been baking a project for the past three years and want to keep going for the next three. You have technically minded ones, you have business hustling types. You have people who are eager to learn, and those who are more skeptical.

You see a lot of glamour in the idea of entrepreneurship and being a founder. There are dreams of fame, glory, and wealth. There are also dreams of more balanced expectations, following in the steps of their parents. You have those who look down on that. And you occasionally get ones who see the holistic spectrum of entrepreneurs and can appreciate the strength with all.

I have rarely seen student ideas continue past a year, let alone past college and beyond. Few ideas that are started in college will reach the success and conviction needed to forgo a high paying job and cost of living. 

And that’s okay. 

I think there are so many learnings and growth that happens when you try to create a company. Try to build a product. Try to collaborate with others. Try to make sales. Try to handle customer service. Try to design something useful, helpful, delightful. The more chances you take at learning these things, the more you’ll get better at it. You’ll make many mistakes when you try, and you won’t get it right the first time, or the second. But you’ll keep getting better. And it will work with time.

Success comes with applied effort, day by day, week by week. If you trust in your effort and you have high integrity, you’ll succeed at this game. Eventually, you’ll also ask the question if this is the game you want to play. It’s totally okay if it’s not - there are many ways to be happy and fulfilled, entrepreneurial life is just one avenue.