“I am often asked the question, ‘What does it feel like to start your own company?’ I often answer: ‘It feels like you’re jumping off a cliff and building an airplane on the way down.’” (Derrick Fung)
A friend and I sat in a business pitch session at the Colangelo College of Business at Grand Canyon University. We listened to impassioned students blazing forward with their ideas, pitching to Timothy Kelley, a well-respected GCU business professor who was an entrepreneur, Angel investor and speaking aficionado. I tapped Josh on the shoulder and said, “We can do this – even better.” If I knew what a self-righteous and naïve that statement was, I may have said something different.
Months later our company launched Storage Together, a “share economy storage” app company. We utilized design, passion and enough provable numbers to show our idea works. We pitched everywhere we could, utilizing our opportunities to make bold steps in our first startup.
My co-founders started as a group of oddball honors students sailing from idea to activation to competition winners, utilizing as much of our networks as possible. We had been mentored in the Colangelo College of Business. Pitching from competition to competition, accruing and securing seed funding for our scrappy young startup had been a surreal dream. We already had multiple competitions under our belt, including our most prestigious award “Best Solution” from the Smart City Hack in Barcelona. We connected with professors who helped us deal with focus, product and realism.
Throughout our networking, we heard advice like this:
- “Technology is your weak point, you have to build first than get customers, quality.”
- “Work in the MVP”
- “Do a seed funding round with family.”
- “Nab investors.”
- “Go talk to Angel investors. Network.”
- “If you don’t get investors now, people will wonder if they should actually invest in you.”
- “Investors? Ignore them, they’ll come to you later.”
- “Do you really need a mobile app?”
- “You definitely need a mobile app.”
- “Don’t be afraid to spend money to gain money.”
- “Agile method is the best way to go.”
- “I really don’t like Agile because it’s slow and tedious.”
- “Share economies are the future. You have a great idea.”
- “I personally would not use the idea. Why would I?”
We heard this before our competition wins and definitely after.
In the timbre of voices, what was the best advice we ever heard? The words from Colangelo College of Business Dean Randy Gibb rang constantly in our heads, “Winning competitions is great, but you have to become a real business.”
Winning competitions was one thing, but being a real business, winning customers, stakeholders and even possibly investors, that was another thing entirely. Every step we took was to go beyond our seedling stage and into a true launch. Every weakness, whatever put holes in our wings, could be patched by simply adhering to hearing real people and making a conscious effort to meet them there. Investors flock when there is desire, so to appeal to the people and see a void or a need leads to a company becoming a solution.
If you have an idea and people jump in with you, what seemed crazy seems sane and logical.
Entrepreneurism teaches faith and, at times, living day by day. The Grand Canyon University Honors College experience is about the idea of faith and action. The Colangelo College of Business and their training helped us understand what it means to be a true winner.
Becoming a business with staying power is vital. Starting a business is a Kierkegaardian leap from the nest – catapulting oneself into some unknowns, with a general idea of direction and the understanding of “stylistic falling.” People may think you’re flying; others may be cynical and expect a “splat.” Certainly, at least, the promise about jumping is movement in the least.
Generally, wearing my thrift store jacket for business networking events had become a tradition. People in suits that cost hundreds of dollars: I got mine for sale at a thrift store.
The GCU Honors College encourages and inspires bright, ambitious and motivated students to succeed. Learn more by visiting our website or contacting us using the Request More Information button on the page.
The views and opinions expressed in this article are those of the author’s and do not necessarily reflect the official policy or position of Grand Canyon University.