Young entrepreneurs often face a multitude of challenges as they explore their vision and translate it into a business. To help such young entrepreneurs succeed, I hosted a webinar at Plug and Play Connect and invited a series of speakers to provide resources and advice on how to successfully build and scale a tech startup, with a focus on funding, networking as well as legal for college students.
Here are some highlights from the webinar:
Our first speaker was Dave Shah, CEO and founder of Wve Labs and Managing Partner of Wve Ventures. Being in the entrepreneurial space since the age of 14, Shah co-founded his first company, Crave On Campus in 2015 and has since built Wve Labs to empower and enable entrepreneurs to actualize their visions.
He shared the importance of overcoming the fear of failure in order to succeed.
“Fail quickly, fail forward- everyone fails and you are not remembered by your failures, you are remembered by your successes,” Shah emphasized as a quote that kept him going.
Q: What do you think are the big learnings from failure?
A: It definitely humbles you, that’s for sure. It’s all in your head so a lot of it is when you know you’re going to put a business together, you have all these expectations and you’re starting to envision what’s going to be. The biggest thing that I took away from failing, not once, but many times, whether it’s through my journey kite surfing or even in the first company I failed at, you will overcome that fear completely after you’ve done it a couple of times. It never goes away, but you start to take bigger risks, and you definitely learn a lot each time you fail.
Q: Are there any specific resources at your school that you utilized for your startup?
A: I relied heavily on my professors. I was fortunate to have professors that were willing to have a very open dialogue. USC, in particular, was a school that had a lot of resources, whether it was incubator type organizations on campus that were affiliated with the school or off-campus. Leveraging the professors to get to meet the alumni and sort of the network that comes with any sort of educational institution that you’re affiliated with was pretty was what I would say was most helpful. The more your professors know about what their students are up to, they’re able to offer unique advice and sometimes even make the introduction to a client or a solid partner and investor.
Our second speaker was Gaurav Goel, founder of StayTouch. Coming from an entrepreneurial family and having a personal frustration with networking solutions for students and young professionals, he decided to quit finance and launch his tech startup called StayTouch in Santa Monica.
He shared the importance of building organic connections with others.
“Networking is not just saying hello to somebody and then moving on, it is important that you maintain that connection, you establish that connection, and then follow up on that connection,” Goel said.
Q: How is it maintaining connections from all over the world from your time in Paris and now during the pandemic, is it more difficult or is it easier to do it exclusively online?
A: Once in a while, reaching out to them on a more personal level. As I said, I’m not a big fan of LinkedIn spamming, I really make a personal effort to make a real connection since that’s how people remember. The more they’re gonna hear from you, the more chances are that they’re going to remember. And that’s it. That’s how I basically did it.
Q: What’s one thing you wish you understood better about entrepreneurship before you even got started?
A: If I were to go back in 2018 and say what would have been different, it would be managing the team and getting the right people around you. I learned during these two years how to manage the team better, who are the right people, and how do you make a long term relationship with them. So, of course, my core team now comprises of 6 individuals and 4 others, so 10 in total. As Dave said, co-founding is a kind of marriage so when you’re selecting the first team members, those are the people who have to be passionate about you, your idea, and are ready to take that boat with you.
Our final speaker was Abhisha Parikh, an immigration lawyer who shared different visa options that international entrepreneurs have for starting their business in the United States.
“You start off in the non-immigrant visa category. And the goal is to transition into the immigrant visa category so that you can stay here and you can keep running your business.”
Some of the options she discussed are F-1 Visa with OPT, H-1B Visa, and E-2 Investor Visa.
Q: How far in advance should you apply for a visa before you graduate or start your business?
A: If you are going to be converting your visa category to something else, definitely plan in advance. Usually, we send out applications at least six months in advance because of how the US government works. If they delayed your application, it’s not their fault. We highly recommend clients to apply well in advance so that there’s no gap period- we don’t want a situation where your F-1 is over and your L-1 is processing but now there’s a 30-day gap and you don’t know what status you’re in. So I would definitely say five to six months in advance.