Those of you that know me know that I'm terrified to speak in front of groups. It is, however, an important part of my work. (And I can't very well tell all of you to get out and pitch your ideas if I'm not willing to practice what I preach.) On Wednesday, I had the opportunity to give a lighting talk at the CU New Venture Challenge kickoff event. I told myself that if I inspired just one person, it would be enough. Afterwards, just one person came up to say I'd convinced them to participate. Mission accomplished. I'm not entirely sure what I actually said, but here's what I intended to say:
There is no better time than now for you to explore entrepreneurship. I want to say that again. This point in your life, right now, is the very best opportunity you will ever have to launch a business. I have three simple points:
First, right now, you have *nothing to lose* and *everything to gain*. Think about this for a moment. Between now and May, you have a place to live and food to eat. Most of you have not started building your kids' college funds, or your retirement funds. If you try this and fail, you still have a place to live and food to eat. You're still at the beginning of your career and your journey. And everything you learn in the process will help you launch those even faster.
While we're talking about failure, I want to reinforce something you're going to hear a lot of. It's a different message than you've heard all through school, but you'll hear it all the time in presentations, from mentors, and in every entrepreneurship book you read. Failure is fine. Failure is good. Failure is all about learning what doesn't work on the way to finding what does. As entrepreneurs we embrace failure ourselves, and, in others, we see it as a strength, not a weakness.
Second, this is the right PLACE to try entrepreneurship. Between now and April. You're going to learn how to build a startup from experts. How to pitch, how to run lean, how to raise money. The presenters and mentors here are the same people who accelerate startups at Mergelane, Boomtown, and Techstars. They are all here giving their time because they want you to share in this amazing experience of entrepreneurship. To surround yourself with these people in the future is hard. It's competitive. But right now, we are all here, waiting for you.
Finally, I want to acknowledge that entrepreneurship isn't for everyone. It's hard. We struggle with mental health. We struggle with work/life balance. Sometimes, we drive Teslas, and sometimes we take the bus. Entrepreneurship is filled with uncertainty, and for those for whom it takes too great a toll, it's best to learn that now, in this safe and nurturing environment.
Entrepreneurship has been an amazing journey for me. I started my first of seven companies at 14. Three of them before the word "startup" or a "startup community" even existed. I'm not alone. This whole room is filled with entrepreneurs who want to help you share in this amazing way of life.
So pick an idea, or find someone whose idea excites you, and take this journey with us.