In October 2014, IEEE invited me to be on a panel of entrepreneurs at the Technical Entrepreneurship Mini-Conference in Toronto, Ontario. Filled with excitement and anxiety, I was the youngest entrepreneur to be on this panel. All the other participants were seasoned entrepreneurs.
I remember looking over some answers that I had prepared for possible questions the moderator might ask. I also remember not wanting to be the one to go first, but of course I was. The moderator began his introduction, and then passed the mic for each of us to introduce ourselves. Speaking first only added to my pressure. Since each of the other speakers were veterans with their spiel, my introduction, by comparison, was relatively brief.
After introductions, the moderator asked the first question: A lot of people want to take the plunge into entrepreneurship. In your opinion or experience, what are the biggest challenges faced by many young or new entrepreneurs?
Reflecting back on this experience and this question, leads me into my next thoughts”¦
When I was in a sophomore in college, pursuing my engineering degree, I met a classmate who had a drive similar to mine. We bonded very well, and naively decided we wanted to start a business together–after knowing each other for only two days. OK, now what? We had no clue what type of business to start. We were searching like eagles scouring the sky.
We came up with many different ideas for business ventures–from starting our own iPhone repair shop–to creating a website. After some soul searching we finally discovered our calling: mobile applications. Now what? We had no clue how to start a company, or even an app. Faced with this challenge, we did what eagles do when scouting for prey from high above–we dove right in–head first.
The first step was learn how to develop mobile applications. Easier said than done! We had no time and no resources, as mere college students. Kiboshed! I’d be lying if I said we weren’t “thrown a monkey wrench” several times. In fact, we still get obstructed today, but on much higher level. The bottom line: we struggled. But we had been all too familiar with hardships from our past, so struggling was not a deal breaker. My business partner had come all the way from Columbia with his family, with just a little bit of savings. I moved out of my home when I was 16. So, we persevered through the obstacles set before us, and founded the software company, Lion Mobile LLC, in August of 2013,
How did we do it? We just started something, and we leveraged time. Whenever we weren’t studying for exams, we would study mobile development. We sacrificed several weekends studying mobile applications. This commitment even continued upon graduation. We studied after work, and met on weekends to discuss what we learned during the week.
After some years, we eventually tackled our first app endeavor! It was a small and modest app, but it opened up doors for us, enabling us to tackle even larger challenges. We would even successfully develop apps for other companies, and grow from a team of two–to a team of ten lions!
And to think, we started by simply becoming obsessed with the idea to start a business.
So when, I was asked by the moderator: What are the biggest challenges faced by many young or new entrepreneurs?
I replied, “One of the biggest challenges is just getting started.”
The irony in that response was that I was the first person to answer the first question. It’s true though. Just getting started is a challenge and that impedes most people–whether it is entrepreneurship, or simply just getting out of their comfort zone. People fear uncertainty. The idea that they might fail, and waste valuable time, stops them dead in their tracks before they even get started. The fact of the matter is, you will ultimately waste valuable time by not starting in the first place. Read my previous column, It’s About Time, to drive the point home even further.
I challenge you to stop wondering and to just start something. Start taking that class on that topic that you were always curious about. Do you want to be an author? Start writing something ” everyday. Do you want your own business? Start writing a business plan. By not starting now, you eventually could be your future self, reading an article that a young entrepreneur wrote, and reflect back to your past, thinking: Why didn’t I just try that one thing when I was younger? Or, why didn’t I just keep going? Where could I be today?
Don’t be this person
Life’s journey has already begun, and is not waiting for anyone. So, get going. Just start something
Devon Ryan is IEEE-USA’s Young Professionals Voice columnist, and the Young Professionals Representative on the IEEE-USA Board of Directors.