In order of increasing difficulty.
Have you ever considered joining a start-up? Do you have a great idea that the world can’t live without? Maybe this will inspire you to join the start-up world.
I’m from the Greater Toronto Area, and when I’m not listening to Drake, calling the haters Hosers or bathing my pet polar bear in maple syrup, I like to read articles. A few months ago, I came across an article by Rena Wang that gave a wonderful Venture Capital profile of Toronto.
I resonated with the article because the Start-Up scene in Ontario is a world that I found myself immersed in the past few months. I was involved in a venture that was a part of a couple accelerators and received a (very) small amount of funding. It was an exciting, challenging and at times frustrating experience, one I will most likely write about in the future. Above all, it was an excellent opportunity that made me grow as a person, exactly like eating a McDouble from McDonald’s.
I’m not proclaiming to be some Venture guru who could do something crazy such take a free commodity like water and then sell it in stores and profit. I’m not that (yet, I’m coming for you oxygen) but learning about the start-up scene and having a couple feet in the water taught me that it isn’t that hard to learn more about and immerse yourself into the world of Start-Ups.
Building a successful venture? Incredibly difficult. Building an unsuccessful venture? That too can be a painstaking experience. However, the target of this article is the layman that dreams big and wants to know all the avenues they can go down that can help them start their venture, or at the very least make connections in the scene. Informing yourself about those is just as easy as starting any other hobby. We are at a point in history where there are more tools than ever to arm the average person with the means to start their own business. Using those tools correctly with measurable success to create a sustainable venture is one thing, but familiarizing yourself with them is more than possible. Here are some of those tools and methods:
1. Read, read read
Difficulty Level: Eating food while hungry
Medium is your friend. There are tons and tons of content out there on the topic of Start-Ups. Some good, some not so good. Some are very informative, but may not yield any use for the situation you find yourself in. Point is, if you look hard enough, you will find some quality content that can aid you in your education. Here are a couple good sources right on Medium:
Surepath Library: The publication Rena’s VC profile was written on. They have lots of great articles that go into great detail about funding, growth and investment companies.
Startup Grind: They have quality and quantity of content. They’re great at featuring stories that help you on the business side and with the lifestyle of the Start-Up world.
Difficulty Level: Depends on how well you can interact with strangers
Eventbrite (and alcohol) is your friend. A quick search will find you a variety of events ranging from conferences, pitch competitions and even drink meet-ups. Disruptive technologies go well with a gin and tonic.
Unfortunately, this one is more geographically based, but with scene expanding, you may be surprised with what events you may find in your area. Prices tend to vary anywhere to free to possibly a couple hundred dollars depending on how large and popular the event is.
3. Hire a Freelancer
Difficulty Level: Having a 5-minute conversation with your Ex that you just bumped into. It’s not like you’re on bad terms, but things are still awkward, so there’s a couple of 3-second pauses in between one person to the next, and you interrupt each other several times.
Strangers are your friends (if you’re above 18 or with parental supervision). A great way to solve a problem that is roadblocking your launch, and one that you and your partners may not have the specific skills to solve (i.e. graphic design, many I.T. related tasks).
Many may object to this point, and understandably, as many early ventures have had negative experience giving a large job to an entity outside of the company.
However, if you find a trustworthy person for the task, a freelancer can help get your venture off the ground. Websites like Upwork are designed for you to find talented people for you to work with.
4. Join an Accelerator or Incubator
Difficulty Level: Not getting a sunburn after being in the middle of a supernova (I’m possibly exaggerating, but it’s still hard)
Opportunity is your best friend, and that’s what joining an accelerator and incubator can provide you with.
Joining an accelerator or incubator is the most difficult thing to do on this list. Think of Accelerators or Incubators as a university or college program for a start-up. You have access to mentors, connections and funding opportunities all set to take your venture to the next level. If accepted, the Accelerator program will most likely ask for a percentage of the business for compensation, ranging from 3–7%.
The Bay Area (who would have guessed?) is the crown jewel of Accelerators and features powerhouses such as Y Combinator, which has vaulted forward ventures that include Air B&B, Quora and Women Who Code.
Y Combinator has an acceptance rate of less than 3%, and that is the norm with top accelerators. You could very well have yourself a sustainable venture, and still not even be close to making a program like Y Combinator or AngelPad. However, if you do eventually make it, you are now part of a world that will widen the horizon of possible connections and funding opportunities you may have never been able to reach.
There are plenty of other smaller accelerators and incubators that can add value in terms of funding and connections. They too will most likely have acceptance rates below 5–10%, but, anything worth doing is most likely difficult (although the other way is around is not necessarily true).
If you are a university student, I recommend seeing if your university has any entrepreneurial initiatives, specifically accelerators, for students. The competition to join may still be steep, but you will probably be competing with a smaller pool of just your student body, and still have great access to resources such as mentors and pitch competitions for funding. My alma mater, Western University has an idea accelerator that’s fanning the flame of entrepreneurship, and I recommend.
I have to shout out an accelerator that was at my alma mater. Some of my friends and I joined W5, an idea accelerator where we had to apply and formulate a start-up idea over a 4 month cohort period. The 4 months went by too quick, we made a lot of new connections and I can say that it inspired me to further attempt to go down the road of entrepreneurship.
So, those are 4 ways to jump-start your baptism into the world of start-ups. Having a successful start-up is tough, over 90% fail, but almost anyone can educate and learn more about them. Failure is a strong possibility, but remember:
A difficult situation is just an opportunity for inspiration.
If this story inspired you, join the conversationn in the comments below.