When I began my internship at Start Co. in January, I was just a business major in an internship class looking for something interesting to be a part of. I knew very little about entrepreneurship and what it takes to build and grow a startup in today’s fast-paced business world. But I came with an open mind and a desire to learn, not only because I was interested, but also because my college career is winding down faster than I could ever have imagined and now is the time to learn if I’m going to survive in postgraduate life.
What I have learned in the almost two months I’ve been an intern at Start Co. is that an idea is just the start of building a company. Of course it’s important to find an area of consumer need and a way to effectively fill that need. That’s a critical step in the startup process. But a great idea is a dime a dozen.
What it really takes to be successful in the entrepreneurial world is passion and a drive to succeed. There have been a million great ideas that you have never heard of — or that somebody else ended up doing better — because their creators were not driven to make them succeed no matter the obstacles.
Every startup team that works at Start Co., from Preteckt to Front Door, has that drive and that is how they have gotten as far as they have with their companies. They all started with an idea that they were passionate about and believed could make a difference, and they stuck with it. They have also possess the other key trait of successful entrepreneurs: a willingness to listen to their consumers’ needs and adapt their product to fit those needs. You cannot have a one-track mind when it comes to your business plan. An unwillingness to adapt is one of the surest ways to guarantee failure for your startup. The world is changing rapidly and your company must change with it if you want to succeed.
Any good investor will tell you that when they make an investment, they are investing more in the person than the idea. They are betting that that entrepreneur’s drive to make their startup a success will be able overcome the challenges that come along the way. An idea does not create a business, people do.
Thanks to everyone who submitted their 90-second video in Start Co.’s first Pre-Seed Pitch Competition. There were tons of great ideas and we encourage everyone to continue working on and building their startups. We had 6 different prizes and are excited to announce the winners:
Why should a college student or recent graduate start a business? To be honest, this is a difficult question for me to answer. At first, all I could think of were reasons why college students or recent graduates should not start a business. Numerous reasons came to mind including our lack of experience, societal pressures and norms regarding college students. This actually surprised me that this was my initial train of thought due to the fact that my parents have very strong entrepreneurial minds. I grew up learning what it means to own a business, to take risks, and to fail, as well as the feeling of being successful. The reasons why I thought negatively about starting a business in college or right after stems from the very thinking that students do not have enough experience in such matters. The more I thought about the question though, the more I realized neither do any other entrepreneurs, no matter the age or past experience!
Each start-up process is unique and catered toward a target audience, the product, and their willingness to make their product or service successful. For that reason, I began thinking that students are actually probably some of the best people to start a business because they are young, persistent, and hungry for success. In addition, students’ minds are not yet disheartened and still strive for challenges rather than just settling for mediocrity. College students also have the least to lose because generally speaking they are providing solely for themselves or anyone else relying on them and are willing to try whatever it takes to become successful.
Being a senior, I am very sensitive to the pressure of what we are expected to do or become after graduating. Although my parents want the best for me and always support my decisions, they want me to either continue school or intern in order to gain more experience in the professional world. Society puts pressure on seniors and recent graduates to take their $100,000 education and turn it into a high-paying, successful job overnight. Additionally, peers challenge each other to have the best internship, fellowship, or graduate school because there is a stigma that if you do not follow this route, then you will not be as successful. These pressures have forced me to think negatively about being self-employed after graduation; however, there is no better experience than building a company from the ground up! Internships, fellowships, and more schooling cannot teach life and business lessons as well as the trial and error of starting a business. For these reasons, perhaps starting a business out of college is actually a better step for some people than others. Maybe following a passion and committing to it is better than following society’s suggested steps to success!
After working through my thoughts and initial concerns, I want to revisit the question: Why should a college student or recent graduate start a business? Now is the time to start a business because why not, what does one have to lose? There is not a better time in our lives to commit to building a company. College students want to make a difference in the world. We want to follow our dreams and find what motivates us to work. If the service or good requires a change in location then let’s move! If the service or good requires a large investment then we can access resources and networks through our college, community, and social media. The only limit to recent graduates and college students is themselves! Additionally, mentors are more likely to allow recent graduates to ask them for advice because they want to help. Utilizing these opportunities will make students more successful in their start-ups and will allow them to follow their own path.
Co-Founders Peter Bassa, Ken Sills, and Sasha Kucharczyk (pictured below respectively) are building a predictive truck maintenance platform using real time data science and machine learning in the long haul truck industry. Preteckt, a Start Co. alumni (Seed Hatchery ’15), streams 16,000 data points a second off a big rig truck to the cloud and then using high powered machine learning in the cloud their data systems analyze data and predict when a truck will break down in the future and which part or system will fail. We asked the Preteckt team a couple of questions about their business and their partnership with SoftLayer, a Start Co. partner. SoftLayer’s Catalyst Startup Program provides our entrepreneurs with the cloud infrastructure to help them scale their companies quickly and correctly.
Q: Why did you start Preteckt?
A: Preteckt was started because the Co-Founder’s hated it when their vehicles broke down on them. It was a ghastly occurrence that ruined their day and usually the following week. We realized we were not alone in suffering that pain, so we set out to find a way to prevent breakdowns from happening. In developing our solution we started working with trucking companies due to the increased costs associated with a truck breaking down compared to a passenger vehicle. A truck breaking down can create a loss of over $10,000! Since then we have been focusing our time and efforts to make breakdowns a thing of the past.
Q: What has Preteckt been up to since going through the Start Co. 2015 program?
A: Preteckt is currently installed in multiple fleets totaling 800 trucks. We can currently create $850 of value per truck per year with our predictions. With already 3000 trucks in our pipeline we don’t show signs of stopping. We have used this traction to raise $300,000 to accelerate the development of our technology and get ourselves ready for commercialization.
Q: How did Preteckt discover—and choose to develop a partnership with—SoftLayer?
A: Preteckt discovered SoftLayer due to its partnership with StartCo. We chose to develop the relationship early during the accelerator due to a forecasted need for a large computational backbone in the near future.
Q: What do you think sets SoftLayer apart?
A: We need a service that can grow with us. Softlayer has great customer support, and has the ability to scale our operation from one hundred units, to one million units. Softlayer is a very competitive hardware-as-a-service company. They allow you to order your own “bare metal” (a real, physical, completely yours) server without the need to hire hardware experts for building and maintaining the machines. The cost vs the computing power is lower than other competitive services, and there is no competing with other users for resources like on a virtual server. The other big advantage is that we are able to customize the hardware that goes into our servers to make sure we get exactly the performance we want. So creating a data backup server (a lot of hard disk space) vs creating an analysis server (a lot of CPUs) is the same process and we pay for exactly what we need.
Q: Do you have any advice for other founders who want to build good relationships with their platform/hosting providers?
A: Get to know them before you need them. Make friends, stay in contact with them, and treat them like real people. People like helping people that they like and trust. In turn, they will want to see you succeed.
Q: What is the latest at Preteckt?
A: Preteckt is growing strong with help from SoftLayer. We closed our round and started scaling the data generation side of the company. SoftLayer’s services have given us the comfort that as we add more trucks to our service we can scale with ease. With a goal to be installed on 5,000 trucks by the end of 2016 and significantly more in 2017, we feel comfortable that SoftLayer has us covered!
We want to hear about your startups, so we’ve created a video pitch contest. Win $1,000 cash for your technology startup by entering a short, 90-second pitch. Don’t know if you can win the grand prize? We also have prizes for the “Strongest Team” and “Most Enthusiastic Presentation” so check out the details below.
Description: The Pre-Seed Pitch Competition aims to encourage entrepreneurs with idea stage technology startups.
1 Hour Meeting with Jan Bouten, Partner at Innova Ventures