In the spirit of switching my blog over to new content, I suppose I should with begin with explaining why I’m so interested in entrepreneurship and finance.
It was only a few years ago when I was introduced to the idea that I could create my own career. As a good student, I grew up under the assumption that I would get good grades, get a good job, and climb the company ladder. The only problem? I didn’t want to do it at all.
The First Idea
During my second year of undergrad, I was studying chemical engineering. I knew I didn’t want to be an engineer, but I was getting my degree so I could go to law school. I told myself I’d change my major if I could come up with a better idea. I never did.
One day, for my Thermodynamics II class, we had to go to an oil and energy event. It was a panel with a few speakers from the oil industry talking about their careers. Since it was mandatory, I went alone, sat in the very back, and didn’t speak to anyone. I didn’t want to be there, I had lost my entire evening on this event that I wasn’t even interested in.
While they we talking, it became crystal clear: I didn’t want to do this. The audience seemed engaged with these speakers, enamored by the way these three were changing the world. I saw them as what they were: people who were overworked. In a fit of frustration, I turned the page in the notebook I was taking notes in and drew a line right down the middle. On the left side, I made a list of the classes I had taken that I enjoyed and on the right, I made a list of my hobbies.
Desperate, I stared at the words I had scribbled down and tried to connect the dots. I was so focused on coming up with an idea of how to escape the rat race. I felt certain it was the only way out of the reality I had set up for myself. After thinking and thinking, I came up with my first idea.
It was a foreign language learning program. I’ll spare you the details, but it had me firing on all cylinders. Alongside my chemical engineering, I studied international studies. I was passionate about different cultures and languages. As an engineer, I loved algorithms. Putting the two together made sense. For months, I carried around a separate notebook where I planned out the idea.
Meeting the Sharks (and the Bait)
Having my idea just felt like a little secret that I was carrying around. I fantasized about the code on the backend and sketched logos in my spare time. I became obsessed.
A few months later, a friend that I had told my idea to came up to me with a strange proposition. She was working for an economics professor and they were doing a shark tank event for start-ups to get funding from investors in the city. She asked if I wanted to help out. Of course, I agreed.
As a volunteer at this event, I was in the room with the sharks timing people as they pitched. I heard bad pitches about good businesses and good pitches about bad businesses. I watched the sharks tear some people apart and some praise and give offers. I have never learned so much in an afternoon. I was caught under the spell of entrepreneurship. I wanted to learn everything I could.
Inserting Myself in Places I Didn’t Belong
After the shark tank event, I felt my passion in my bones. I didn’t have money (or the ability to code a website), so all I could do was make lessons for the foreign language program. I kept working, but I knew something would have to change to get it off the ground. I got my opportunity, but not exactly in the way I had imagined.
Over the holidays, I went home to visit some old friends. While catching up, one of my friends mentioned a mutual friend of ours who had a start-up. Something about a phone app. Something about social media. Amidst my slightly tipsy evening, I focused all my energy in getting more information about the status of his company.
I called him the next day and asked him if I could help out. He immediately said yes. All of a sudden, I had a start-up I could be a part of. He told me that if I helped him with his idea, he’d help me with mine. And just like that, I was in business.
This was during the final semester of my senior year. My law school applications had already been sent in – school didn’t matter now. I shifted all of my energy to launching his app. The app had already been made, so it was all-hands-on-deck to get this thing to the public. I met with local bars, came up with a crazy marketing strategy, brought a few friends with a few targeted skills to help, and things were looking great. My house had become the unofficial HQ. Some days, I was working more than eight hours.
With the help of the team I had put together, we had opportunities networking with some pretty serious and established people. I was getting to know that economics professor who did the shark tank events (I brought on the friend who worked for him). We found ourselves building a reputation as people who had marketing intuition.
However, the longer I worked on this business, the more I started to realize that something wasn’t right. There were investors behind the scenes. Every time I asked about them, I didn’t get much information. A few months later, I discovered that they owned most of the company and had some strong opinions about things.
Without getting into it all, I had to leave the business. I was able to spare my relationships with my friends, but I walked away with such a gift. I now had actual experience working on a start-up.
Weaseling My Way In Further
I landed a job with the economics professor, largely due in part to my friend. I had two roles with him: to plan events on campus with investors and to consult start-ups that he had invested in at his firm.
I won’t get into the details since these are real companies and real investors. But I was able to now see the other side of the business: what a start-up looks like to an investor. I only worked with him for a few months – law school had just begun and I was crumbling under the workload. However, these positions indicated that there was a spot for me in this community if I wanted it.
My Path Forward
If you’ve been here since the early days of my blog, you know what happened next. I started this blog. I wanted something I could call my own and wasn’t intertwined with personal relationships. Something where I had all of the control.
Now here we are.
I’m excited for this journey forward. I look forward to writing about entrepreneurship and finance and learning more myself. If you’ve made it this far, thanks for being a part of that experience.