On Founding a Company Fresh Out of College


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probably do not have a family to take care of and a mortgage to pay. Having these responsibilities adds a lot of pressures and risk.

• Low living expenses. Coming out of college at age 22 like I did, you’re probably used to low standards of living, so you can live on very little. I was flat broke at the end of my senior year, but I wanted to spend all my time trying to get a company started, so I cut my food expenses down drastically (ate a lot of potatoes) and moved into cheaper housing.

• Access to potential team members. Universities have a high concentration of talented and ambitious people. This is a perfect breeding ground for the beginning of a startup team. People also have the freedom to go do a startup, if they’re up for it.

• Ambition. Early in your career, you’ll run through walls to make it happen.

• Fear of what could’ve been. I was compelled to be an entrepreneur. Some call it the “entrepreneurial bug.” I’ve heard other entrepreneurs call it a disease. Whatever it is, I had it. And I knew, if I didn’t try a startup right then, I’d always be thinking about it at whatever job I eventually took.

In hindsight, most of my analysis was correct, although I did overlook a few things. For instance, another advantage of working for a few years before attempting a startup is that team members are able to build up some savings, which can greatly reduce the amount of pressure the team feels. Another thing I could not have fully appreciated without experience, although I have heard it said many times, is just how important having a great team is. In fact, I would now go so far as to say the team is everything.

Whenever you get advice, you have to make the best decision possible for you at that given time. I chose to go for it. But now that I know a lot more and did not achieve the outcome I had hoped for, would I still advise my former self to do the same thing?


I now have an intimate knowledge of doing a startup. You only understand it once you do it. A startup is an emotional process for the founders. When you found a company, you put your name on it, and you view it as a reflection of yourself. I also know how hard it can be. You cannot understand these things without just doing it. Trying to understand building a business through a spreadsheet or a business plan is meaningless by comparison. You have to get your hands dirty to really get it.

In addition to learning about teams and running a business, I also experienced a failure. I think of this as an extremely important experience.

Lastly, I met a ton of phenomenal people. The entrepreneurial community really is a vibrant one—full of people attempting great things and full of some very interesting personalities.

Another startup certainly lies in my future. I am in no hurry, but when I do decide to go back at it, I will be much better equipped, and I will have something to prove. That’s a powerful combination.

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Kevin is a writer and entrepreneur based in Cambridge, MA. He blogs at KevinVogelsang.com. You can also follow him on Twitter at http://twitter.com/KevinVogelsang Follow @

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7 responses to “On Founding a Company Fresh Out of College”

  1. Uncle Andy says:

    Hey Kevin, you’ve got to stop using the words “failed” and “failing”–those words are much too harsh. It sounds like you just conducted a very successful experiment. You’ll build on what you learned and get closer to the prize next time… and the time after that… and the time after that. One of the great things about the U.S. business landscape is that having unsuccessful entrepreneurial ventures on your resume does not brand you a failure–they’re badges of honor, scars to show off and be proud of…. But I’m sure you know that already.
    Personally, I’m looking forward to hearing about the next successful experiment which I’m sure is already underway….

  2. @Uncle Andy, You’re absolutely correct. You have to get your scars before you get the glory.
    Although, I do think it’s important to call it like it is. “Failure” is a harsh word, but it reflects the fact that failure hurts like hell.
    And you’re right, the next steps are already underway….(just gotta find a way to pick up some cash in the meantime)

  3. Kevin,

    You might consider your entrepreneurial experience as a graduate course and chalk it up to experience. In your case it wasn’t really a “failure”.

    And, since you’re looking to pick up “some cash” for your next foray, you might consider that the job you find will be more rewarding than any start-up and you might find that you can accomplish a lot more in an environment where someone else has to worry about the electric bill and you can focus on whatever your talents truly are.

    Good Luck!