Inspiring Future Entrepreneurs at IST Start-up Week

April 13, 2012 at 2:53 pm Leave a comment

Am I the only one with a pen and paper?

I wrote this sentence at the top of my notebook page this morning as I glanced around the lecture hall and noted the sea of iPads, MacBooks, and smartphones surrounding me. Although I shouldn’t have been surprised: I was at a talk for the College of Information Sciences and Technology’s Start-up Week — in a classroom called the “Cybertorium,” no less.

During the week, which started Monday and ends Saturday, IST alumni and young entrepreneurs returned to campus to talk to current students about turning their own ideas into successful start-ups. Lucky for me, the two talks I attended were less about the latest tech gadgets and more about entrepreneurship.

Neilye Garrity ’04 is the co-founder of Candid Career, a video-based website for job seekers, and Matt Miller ’01 is co-founder and CTO of CyberCoders and CareerBliss, two job-hunting websites that streamline the recruiting and hiring process. Both alums offered some advice and answered tons of questions, which audience members could text or Tweet during the talk.

Here are some of their best tips for aspiring entrepreneurs:

Don’t let others’ reactions discourage you. When Garrity told her family she wanted to quit her cushy job at IBM to work on her website full time, “they thought I was nuts,” she says. “But I believed in what I was doing, so that didn’t stop me.”

Do your research. “Learn everything you can about companies with similar products, even if those companies failed,” Miller says. “Learn from their mistakes.”

Stick with your original idea. “People will constantly tell you, ‘Oh, your idea is cool, but you should also do this,'” says Garrity. Don’t get bogged down in “spin-offs” that can be distracting. Find your niche and stick to it.

Change based on feedback. With the Web, it’s easy to constantly tweak your product based on customers’ suggestions. Both Garrity and Miller do this regularly.

Don’t waste time. Miller says his biggest regret is spending years working in a job he didn’t like, when starting his own Web company was his real passion.

Be ready to work. The overarching theme of both presentations? A successful start-up takes long hours, nonstop stress, and major multi-tasking. “It’s one thing to have a good idea,” says Garrity. “You also have to work your butt off.”

For more from IST Start-up week, search #ISTstartup on Twitter or check out the IST Start-up Flickr page to see students’ updates from the week’s events.

Mary Murphy, associate editor

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