18 April 2015 - 11:46 am

Starting a startup as a student: My experience

The Beginning

After many rounds of assessments and interviews I managed to get a placement year at IBM. Starting a full time job after being a student was quite a culture shock. I had to move away from friends and family to go and work in a town that was almost as far away from home as I could get. I had to wake up at 8 o’clock every morning, get home at 6 and not go out during the week (mostly…). I wanted to fit all this all in whilst also embarking on my own startup journey.

I quickly got into the swing of a full time job. The previous year I had taken quite a few online courses on codecademy in order to learn the basics of web design: I knew that I wanted to start my own business someday and with the ability to reach so many users over the internet I knew I had to know the basics of web design in order to start a business in the modern age. Initially I found it really hard to practice my coding on evenings and weekends. After grafting all day on excel spreadsheets, the last thing that I wanted to do was go home and work on my computer. However, unlike when I was a  student, evenings and weekends really are free time. You don’t feel guilty for not doing work or relaxing because, outside of the working day, the time is yours. I began to work on an idea that I’d begun developing whist I was at university the previous year. On weekends I would design and build my website and on weekdays I would work during the day and play sport and socialise in the evenings.

The framework of my website was coming together quickly, however, as a student of economics there was a huge skills gap between what I needed to know to build the main structure of my website and what I could do. I had to complete around 30-40 hours of online learning in order to learn the programming languages I needed. Fortunately, I had my project to spur me on and, after each 5-10 hours of learning, I was able to put something new that I had learned straight into my site.

calvin

Burnout

At this point I was programming all weekends and most evenings. I hit burnout and didn’t feel like going back to 12 hour work days for 7 days a week. Fortunately a startup accelerator programme that I admired in America, Y Combinator, (funded the likes of reddit, AirBNB, Dropbox and Stripe) began teaching a course on “starting a startup” at Stanford University. They released all their lectures online and I watched all 20 during my lunch hour as they came out each week. They put a huge focus on product development and building the product for the consumer. I began to conduct user interviews; asking people about their job search habits and experiences. I learned so much information and became re-inspired to complete my own website. I began the huge task of manually collecting information on 200 companies about their undergraduate and graduate schemes taking around 3 months (70 hours) of work. Fortunately I now knew many of the skills to put them straight on my website.

I continued to conduct user interviews on my product in order to build for the user. All of this feedback was not only a crucial feedback loop to keep me on the right track but also allowed me to see the potential benefit of what I was making and kept me driven to build it. During this time the people I was interviewing were already finding jobs that they wanted to apply for after being able to search for jobs around their hobbies and interests on my site. I was also forced to continue learning about coding and programming. I took more online courses in order to build the product my consumer wanted. The desire to create the most functional product for them kept me going with all my learning.

The Launch

So, after 6 months of work I have finally launched my job search website. I still have so much more to learn about coding, programming and startups but having a product that is already helping users is a really great feeling.

My experience is quite unique for a university student. I set out on my journey alone but I was fortunate enough to have my users around me pushing me to build my website. Building something with your friends in your spare time can be just as motivating if you all believe in what you’re doing. Thank you for reading my story so far and I wish you all the best of luck if you decide to start the startup journey for yourself!

2 comments

  1. Mihaela says:

    Hi, Calvin, thanks so much sharing, this is hugely inspirational and a true testament to your grit, resilience and desire to learn and improve! Well done and all the best in your venture. I found your website on Google, but the link in the article is broken. It looks really cool!

    All the best,
    Mihaela

  2. Emily Hunt says:

    The link is now fixed! Thanks for letting us know.

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