Editor's Note: College Treps is a weekly column that puts the spotlight on college and graduate school-based entrepreneurs, as they tackle the tough task of starting up and going to school. Follow their daily struggles and this column on Twitter with the hashtag #CollegeTreps.
Having a great idea is only half the battle.
As any seasoned entrepreneur or investor will tell you, execution and the ability to sell are the real bridges between success and failure. Given that heightened importance of execution, a strong support network, like that found in your local-tech community, is critical for any young startup to succeed — and my company is no exception.
When a college friend and I first began building Travefy, a tool that helps groups simplify their travel plans, I knew that to succeed, I’d have to negotiate New York’s burgeoning tech scene. Although intimidating for any entrepreneur — especially those like me who are working on their first startup — it is vital to get to know fellow tech companies in your area to meet potential partners, learn from the experiences of others, raise awareness of your product and, most importantly, market yourself.
Thankfully for me, today’s New York tech community — or Silicon Alley, as it’s nicknamed — has developed dramatically in the past few years. According to a recent study conducted by the Center for an Urban Future, the Big Apple’s tech community is the fastest growing in the country, with a 32 percent jump in the number of venture capital deals since 2007.
While this kind of attention has helped startups lasso funding, it’s also ideal for finding keen advice from veteran entrepreneurs. For us, we were able to tap into New York’s vibrant tech community to help us conceptualize Travefy and even build-out our platform.
From this experience, here are my four tips for successfully navigating not just New York’s tech scene but your local-tech community too:
- 1. Check out co-working spaces. We've spent time working at co-working spots like Wix Lounge and AOL Ventures’ QLabs. Through folks we've met, we've conceived novel ideas and received pivotal advice on areas ranging from user experience to corporate structure. My advice: Take advantage of the wisdom of veterans, meet other likeminded businesspeople, and remember that collaborative processes are how ideas are born and teams are built.
- 2. Talk to anyone and everyone. We started our outreach by blindly emailing fellow beginners, seasoned entrepreneurs, investors and travel experts who (thankfully!) were all willing to share advice or connect us to others. Coffee is your best friend and you should feel comfortable reaching out to anyone you hope to learn from, whether it's a coder, investor or industry professional. Members of the community are likely willing to chat about your business, regardless of the stage, and provide candid thoughts, insights and make more introductions. You'll be shocked how these conversations snowball into others.
- 3. No program is too large or too small. We've committed ourselves to several great programs including the New Venture Track incubation program at Columbia Business School and regularly attend New York Tech Meetup events and demo days. At these events, look for other events and meet ups in your area. You'll not only get direct help for your startup, but you’ll also meet other passionate and inspiring entrepreneurs.
- 4. Be strategic. We never went to a single coffee meeting without some research and a goal. Although every discussion should be an open book to learn something new, be strategic and know exactly what your “ask” is at every meeting — be it a specific piece of advice, lesson or even an introduction.