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The Undergraduate CEO

With Bangladesh propelling towards becoming a middle-income economy and the integration of technology in almost every sector imaginable – we are living in the era of endless opportunities. Bangladeshi companies are thriving beyond borders as well, and many new ideas are taking shape into reality. Amidst all this glory and positive energy, what if you’re a student still pursuing your university degree? What if you are absolutely sure that you have an idea that can change the entire country? What if the inner entrepreneur in you is dying to come out of your cocoon? Do you take the leap of faith? Or do you graduate, take a job, gain experience, grow your network and then ‘safely’ start pursuing your dream after a decade?

Well, the latter is definitely a less risky option, but in case you belong to the first group, the following tips might come in handy for your upcoming entrepreneurial crusade:

1. Form a liaison with your faculty members – The teachers that take your courses every semester might be your biggest source of help at the moment. Not only do they possess immense knowledge across various disciplines, but many are former corporate personnel. Thus, you get a mixture of both experience and academics in your armament to carve your business idea to perfection. And there are even times when faculty members introduce you to other students that he/she thinks you can collaborate with; helping you to find several potential co-founders for your business.

2. Get in touch with your alumni – Often we run across our seniors and instead of just a casual interaction, reach out to the ones that you are close with. Tell them about your idea, try to get some meaningful feedback and let them hook you up with industry experts or any other resource that you might need. Alumni or seniors often have this sense of belonging to their alma mater and helping a fellow junior out is often an emotional journey for them. Hence, the amount of effort or passion that they will have in lending you a hand might surprise you!

3. Be a networking ‘spider’ – The secret to turning your idea into a fully functioning business lies in the fundamentals – knowing the right people. Robert Kiyosaki, a renowned American businessman, often used to say – “The richest people in the world look for and build networks. Everyone else looks for a job”. Knowing who can help you with which piece of your puzzle is vital. And the platform to get acquainted with these individuals? Your university itself! There are countless seminars, workshops, business competitions taking place nowadays. Hop in, find your target and strike up an interesting conversation. Someone might even be interested in funding your business, you never know!

4. Seek help from your friends – One great thing about starting your business in your university days is the ability to have all your skilled friends at your fingertips. And to make things much better, most of them have plenty of spare time and would love to put their hammers in action. You have a diverse group of friends bringing an equally diverse set of skill sets to your business. And it’s way cheaper than a ‘formal hire.’ Need a brand identity plan for your startup? Treat your graphic designer friend on a fast-food joint and voila!

5. Utilize the ‘Buzz’ – You are practically part of the most vibrant community in the country. You have plenty of people eager to try your new product/service out and give you honest feedback. And besides, it’s comparatively much easier to get the word out. If your business luckily involves the student community or has anything to do with them, news about it will spread like wildfire. Your benefit? Unimaginable business growth with negligible marketing effort.

6. Easier to ‘cold call’ industry experts – Now this is a two-faced cannon. The upside is that you use your entrepreneurial charm to baffle a CEO and make him realize the potential of your business. On the downside – his receptionist might not respond to your phone call. But as Jay-Z puts it, “Gotta fake it till you make it.”

7. No external pressures –You’re in your 20s, your energy level is at its peak, and you have the whole world in front of you, waiting to be explored. You’re still not tied down to a rigid family life, and so, there is room for trial and error in your ventures. Besides, better to fail now than later, right? Do you want to fail and lose a million dollars right when your son will need his college tuition or do you want to fail now, learn from your mistakes and recuperate? Now is time to put your ideas to the test and filter out that one idea that hits the perfect note. Drew Houston, the CEO of Dropbox had a famous saying that fits beautifully in this scenario – “Don’t worry about failure, you only have to be right once.”

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