The Future of Web and Technology Startups
Is a traditional college education relevant for entrepreneurial students? It is definitely a question worth pondering as we are at an interesting age now where technology is prevalent in just about every facet of our lives – we check our Facebook from our smart-phones, complete work assignments online, and even micro-blog our thoughts onto the ubiquitous cloud. One aspect that is especially interesting about our times is the steady decline in support and funding needed to start a new web or software venture. It is a similar pattern that has been seen repeatedly in the technology industry. Initially there is a product that is expensive and is made in small quantities as a result. Then someone discovers how to produce it cheaply and as a result more of the product gets produced. The personal computer is a prototypical example of this – originally large and unwieldy in the 1980s, it has evolved to fit into one’s palm with millions coming off factory shelves every day.
I believe this same phenomenon is now happening to web-based startups. A few decades ago, getting a web startup up and running required the approval of investors and access to expensive technology. Now with easy access to the Internet and the wealth of data that comes along with it, one only needs some initiative to get started. And this commodity called initiative can easily be derived from the numerous success stories of large tech startups that are now a part of modern myth. Facebook, Google, and Apple are all billion-dollar examples of just how far one can go by taking the startup route. Seeing such success stories paraded before our eyes only serves to motivate us to start our own initiative. The more startup success stories emerge, the more individuals will be spurred to either start or join a startup.
In terms of startup ventures, the risk taken is more or less proportionate to the reward gained. If web startups become progressively easier and easier to start, then founders can effectively start initiatives at a younger age, where it’s more rational to tinker, try and take on more risk. This approach relates to the “Lean Startup” movement advocated by Eric Reis. As a result, individuals can begin more startups in their career as a whole, leading to even more risk taking and ultimately more value given to society as a whole. The bureaucratic issues involved in getting funding or persuading investors to believe in one’s product will also become less of a headache as founders will only need significant funding in order to expand an initiative that is already up and running. As a result, persuading potential investors would become as simple as demonstrating the product itself and the potential it has.
Finally the proliferation of startups will also have a profound effect on how we spend our college years and how education as a whole is structured. The importance of a college degree is derived from the ease it offers potential employers to judge you. However, if one has set his mind to starting a company or continuing to work on his or her startup after college, the concept of being armed with a college degree proves less compelling. Instead of trying to get good grades to impress future employers, students would instead take specific classes to learn more in order to improve the product they were offering through their company and would also be motivated to learn more as a result. With more and more startups beginning to pop up, there would be fewer people who would sit on their ideas and more who would take the initiative to try and provide value to society through their startups. For entrepreneurial students, the college experience can be a rewarding one, as long as they utilize it to improve their ventures or build on their ideas.
Cornell Class of ’15 ILR