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GTA Consulting
Sep 15 2019
What I Wish I'd Known After Graduation: A Startup Guide  E-mail

By Kyle Wong

Dear Recent College Grad and Aspiring Entrepreneur,
Congratulations! You’ve been working on a startup idea that you’ve been iterating on throughout senior year. While your parents are happy you received your diploma, they are confused about your career choice: namely why you would give up a prestigious and secure job to work on a crazy idea without a salary for the indefinite future. The vast majority of startups fail, and yet you’re about to step into the fire with very little savings and even less experience.
Don’t worry. I (like many others) were in your shoes before. Here’s what I wish I had known:
1. Get comfortable with uncertainty
Up until now, and for most of your life, there was a general set of directions that you needed to follow. To get into college you needed the right classes, grades, and SAT scores. In college you knew which classes you had to take to get your diploma. In each class, your syllabus provided you with all the details you needed to succeed.

A crowd of college students at the 2007 Pittsburgh University Commencement. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)
Unfortunately, there is no course syllabus for startups. In college, you could prepare for exams because you knew which topics they’d cover. You could pull an “all-nighter” to study and do alright. But as the cofounder of the startup, you don’t have anyone telling you what you should be doing. You can pull all the “all-nighters” you want, but it won’t help if you’re working on the wrong problems.
One of the advantages you have as a very young entrepreneur is that you have “less to lose.” Chances are you don’t have a wife, kids, or a mortgage to pay off—at least not yet.  The flip side is that you don’t have any structure around you either. This uncertainty and lack of direction can drive entrepreneurs crazy; learning how to deal with it will help you stay focused and sane.

2. Know what you don’t know

Some of you probably did really well in school and excelled in every topic. As a startup co-founder you’re not expected to be good at everything. In school, grades often tell you if you aren’t good at something. But in startups, there are no “grades,” and as a result you have to be self aware and honest with yourself about your strengths and weaknesses. Your job is to understand your needs and attract the right people and resources to help you.
As a young entrepreneur people are willing to help you, and you should welcome that help with open arms. They understand that you are new to things and chances are they too have faced the struggles you’re dealing with. Meet smart people, stay connected, and don’t be afraid to ask questions. Remember people love to give advice!

3. Build for how you want the world to work

About a year ago, Aaron Levie, the CEO of Box, tweeted out, “Uber is a lesson in building for how the world should work instead of optimizing for how the world does work.” This tweet really resonated with me and how I think young entrepreneurs should think about their businesses. As a fresh college grad you probably don’t have a lot of industry experience. This can be a good thing because you don’t come to the table with preconceived biases of how things are done. It allows you to dream big and challenge the status quo. Using Uber as an example, sometimes you need to think outside the box instead of improving on current solutions.
My advice to you is to find a balance between creativity and pragmatism. Dream big, but do your homework on matters relevant to your business. You can’t succeed running blind no matter how fast you go. Harness that unbiased and unlimited curiosity to make that dream a reality.

Congrats on graduating! Now welcome to the real world.

Kyle Wong is the founder and CEO of Pixlee. Follow him on Twitter  at @kwong47.