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10 things I learned creating a start-up company

1. You will never have enough time to user test. 
God do I wish I could user test forever. User testing is putting your product in people's hands and getting feedback. This is extremely important because you may think you're products the shit, but in reality, it may just be shit. By user testing, you find out early one what people like, what they don't, and what they find confusing. If users don't like your product, they are simply not going to use it. I wish I could do endless user tests and feel confident about our product, but the reality is there is writing to be done, budgets to be made, and networking that has to get done. When you do get that precious time to user test, hit it as hard as you possibly can.

2. This isn't academia
In academia I was taught to point out every nuance in my argument, and to endlessly elaborate every god-damn point. Business is nothing like academia. At first it feels weird to sell and not drone on about methods and literature. But it's essential. If you don't catch your audiences attention, you're as good as dead. Reading body language is your best friend. Accentuate points that caused them to lean in and listen. You are selling your product, not describing how it works. 

3. Presentations are your bread and butter
As a start up, you're going to be asked to present your concept to a lot of different venues. It's amazing what a polished presentation can afford a small start up. Having a presentation with very well-crafted slides, clear transitions, and even paying attention to how word choice flows can make or break a pitch. You need to do three things in a presentation. 1. keep your audiences attention. 2. prove you're competent. 3. Explain your pitch clearly and succinctly. One thing that has boggled my mind is how little time some start-ups spend on their presentation. I truly think one of the things that have differentiated us when competing against tenured academics is just simply our polish. We spent a lot of time crafting our presentation and that polish impresses people. But more importantly, that polish proves to funders that we are efficient, competent, and professional.

4. You can never rehearse your elevator speech enough
The biggest thing that's going to differentiate you from your competition is your poise. Can you say your pitch succinctly, confidently, and without stumbling? It's way harder than it sounds, especially when you're under pressure. If I could, I would devote countless hours to making thousands of different pitches for different situations and memorize them. Especially once you've gone deep into your idea, it can be really hard to succinctly describe your business. That's why it's important to brainstorm your company through power verbs and nouns that can pack a lot of information in as little as one sentence.

5. Your budget revisions are going to take you a bijllion times longer than you think they will, especially if you are going through university. 
Just trust me on this. Allocate at least 5x as much time as you think you need for budget revisions.

6. You are going to pay yourself shit. Even if you think you are going to pay yourself well. 
See number 5. Sometimes it takes months for the first paycheck to even come in. You'll surely work more hours than you intended, and after bureaucracy and taxes, you probably aren't going to make nearly as much as you think. But in the end, it's actually okay (see number 7 and 9 & 10).

7. It's one of the most rewarding experiences you'll ever have
Simply, you'll feel incredibly accomplished. You'll have learned so much that you  never knew before. You'll be interfacing with professionals and get interest from a variety of people who never would have known you existed otherwise. But most importantly, you'll be able to put your knowledge, experiences, and expertise to work to actually help solve issues going on in your community.

8. Sometimes you will think you are a fraud
Just like in academia, sometimes when you've gone forward with an idea for so long, you start to wonder if it is any good anymore. That is totally ok. You are the one that knows all of the nuance, and all of the pieces to it and so it is natural that you become hesitant that there might be something better out there. The important thing is that you keep listening to your users and your audience, and stay true to your morals.

9. Your co-founders are going to become like family
You are going to see them. A lot. You'll drink and goof off, you'll grump at each other unfairly. All masks come off when you spend so much time together, especially under deadlines. After working together for a few months, you're likely to become much more blunt and to the point than you were when you first started and that's a really good thing. You'll notice funny group dynamics, like how before a big presentation everyone gets really grumpy for a few days and then becomes complete nut jobs posting cat pictures on every sentence of your proposal the day before it's due, and thinking that it's the funniest thing that's ever happened in the universe. (not that we do that or anything).

10. You'll learn more than any course could ever teach you
You'll learn about how to make a formal budget. You'll learn how to write sales pitches. You'll learn about how to get a lawyer and how to interpret laws. You'll learn all the ugly sides and beautiful sides of politics. You'll learn about EIN numbers, and every type of employment out there. You'll learn how to subcontract people. You'll learn how graphic design artists think. You'll probably learn some photoshop. You'll learn the things that make you difficult to work with. You'll learn your pet peeves. You'll learn how to speak succinctly and clearly. You'll learn about creating value, and assessing the marketplace. Most importantly, you'll learn so much that you feel you can tackle things you never thought you could tackle before. (like, oh, you know, starting a company).


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