Starting a Company at MIT
Two companies have been formed from the Incubomber so far: Sidaza and ClassMetric. If you want to start a company as a student at MIT, here are our recommendations. No one is an expert (least of all us), but this was our journey.
(1) Take the class Founder’s Journey as soon as possible (preferably this fall) – talking to founders and hearing their stories is inspiring, humorous, drama-filled and motivational. You’ll also learn that your ideas suck, but once you admit that, your ideas and ideation process will improve dramatically. Hint: don’t start alone in a dark room – start by asking people what they love/hate about their day.
(2) Surround yourself with great people – if you’re serious about this, the best people will become your co-founders. This is often like marriage without sex, so choose carefully. For us, we were incredibly close friends since freshman year… be comfortable dogpiling on your co-founders.
(3) Commit to starting your own company – if Founder’s Journey didn’t get you excited enough to do it, try to imagine working at a large corporation for the rest of your life. If this irks you, keep thinking about it until you are ready to quit and start your own company. Committing is hard. To lock yourself in: turn down all of your existing job offers, stop accepting interviews and take one less class next semester. Your parents and academic adviser are unlikely to approve of these actions. Man up.
(4) IAP – Your ideas are still bad, but pick one of them and work hard on it over IAP. Leverage the 6.470 web competition or the iCampus prize to motivate yourself, give yourself a deadline, and pull other people into the effort. Early milestones are very helpful.
(5) Demo – as often as possible. Get feedback from potential customers. Iterate. Don’t forget to expand your network of advisers (demos are massively helpful in this effort): MIT Entrepreneurship Center, MIT Venture Mentoring Service, Venture Cafe at Cambridge Innovation Center, Dogpatch Labs Cambridge, and introduce yourself to everyone who looks respectable. Walk around at Kendall Cosi and randomly introduce yourself. Might be the worst 20 seconds of your life, or it might lead to a partnership made of pure gold. We found our fourth co-founder via 2 intermediate friends on a random trip to RISD….
(6) Do something crazy – several of us skipped a week and half of school for StartupBus and SxSW, where we demoed http://ethertun.es. The connections and street cred from this idiotic stunt made it worthwhile.
(8) It’s ok to fail at something – you can’t succeed at everything. Succeeding with your startup will require some sacrifices in grades, sleep or something. An adviser at MIT once told us that when we started failing classes he’d know we were succeeding. Careful now. Stay hungry and make it happen.
Don’t stop here…