Transition – from college project to startup


(Based on an answer to this question “Is it a good idea to start up based on a college project when 4-5 companies are ready to pay for the product?” on Quora)

“Is it a good idea to start up based on a college project when 4-5 companies are ready to pay for the product?”

What the hell – why not?  This is an immediate thought that flashes your mind when you come across this question.

If you have someone who is willing to pay for what you are making, what the hell is stopping you from starting up?

But, the answer is much more complex than what you think.

If you’re a student, turning a side project into a startup is one of the most important steps in your journey as a founder. Done well, this transition builds the determination and commitment that’s necessary to overcome the challenges of a startup that lie ahead.  Done half-heartedly, the transition can be toxic for both the fledgling startup and the rest of your commitments.

More ever, the transition is not like an overnight makeover of the situation.

Transition Stages

When it comes to how you relate to the project (or startup), there are several stages. Some of them are tough on your mind and some of them are a hell of a good time.

transition phases

The “This is just a hobby” Stage

The first stage of your project is the hobby stage. You have something that you are really passionate about and that is how, in most of the situations, the college projects ideas would originate.

The “Oh snap! I can make money doing this?” Stage

The second stage of transition is when you realize you manage to reach some progress on your project and you feel you can actually make money out of it.

Before you know it, your mind is spinning with possibilities. You start putting in a crazy amount of time learning everything you can about how to make money from this project and implementing as much of the knowledge as you can into your efforts.

The “My study is getting in the way!” Stage

Once you start treating your project as an important work, you quickly enter the third stage of transition. This is the stage where your study starts getting in the way of your dream work. No matter how difficult it may be, it starts to look extremely appealing.

This is a stage where you take a considered decision about what is more important to you.

The Hustling Stage

Definition of hustle is to move or work in a quick and energetic way and to play with a lot of energy and effort. Hustling is simply taking next step, whatever it might be. Its not about standing still. Its about making moves.  The act of hustle is more important than wherever you are planning to go. This is the phase where you start getting real insights from the real world.

The Tipping Point Stage

Once you’ve been hustling for some time, you’ll reach a tipping point.  A tipping point is “the moment of critical mass, the threshold, and the boiling point”.  It is the critical point in a situation, process, or system beyond which a significant and often unstoppable effect or change takes place – both, inside your mind and outside in the market. You are pretty sure you want to do this.

The “Holy crap! I am in it!” Stage

The last stage in transition is when you realize you’re actually doing it. Not only are you doing it, but it’s easier than ever. The struggle is so very much less.

For some student entrepreneurs, this transition happens fairly smooth, while for many others it’s a bumpy ride.

Bumpy ride

We are talking about 3 critical bumps that will need to get negotiated well:

transition - bumps

Leaving the bliss of project  – Side projects are fun because you get to work on something in a blissful vacuum–no negative feedback or responsibilities. Going from a side project to a startup, however, means going from building something that interests you to building something people want.

The intensity of work – The way projects are measured is mostly based on the distance between the starting point and where you are now. If someone has achieved more, they should get a good grade. But customers will judge you from the other direction: the distance remaining between where you are now and what solves their pain. The market doesn’t care how hard you worked. Users just want your product to do what they need, and if it doesn’t, you get a zero. There is no reward for putting in a good effort.

Committing huge amounts of time – If you’re like most busy students, you’re probably spending about 90% of your time on some combination of academics, athletics, extracurricular, and social activities, leaving 10% for your side project. But for your side project to even have a chance of becoming a successful startup, you’ll have to flip that ratio and spend almost all of your time on it.

“Be a real student and not start a startup or start a real startup and not be a student”

Paul Graham , Y Combinator, in “How to Start a Startup”

How do you know if you are ready for a transition?

There is one sure shot way to know if you are prepared to work on these bumps – take a ride and check it out!

But, if you’re not certain, you should wait. It’s not as if all the opportunities to start companies are going to be gone if you don’t do it now. Maybe the window will close on some idea you’re working on, but that won’t be the last idea you’ll have. For every idea that times out, new ones become feasible.


Leave a Reply

Please log in using one of these methods to post your comment: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.