Can a Computer Science Student Start a Business: For most people, there are two types of businesses: those that exist in brick-and-mortar buildings and those that exist online. If you’re like most people, you tend to think of the former type of business.
Can a Computer Science Student Start a Business?
Especially the physical ones tend to be more successful than the latter type of business, especially the digital ones, in terms of profit generation and growth potential. While this can be true if you’re talking about all businesses in general, this isn’t true when it comes to today’s businesses and how they operate.
If you have great ideas
You don’t need to become an entrepreneur; you need to make things that people want. Most ideas fail because people don’t actually want them in their lives. When people tell me they have great ideas, my first question is always, What problem are you solving and why would it be difficult for someone else to solve that problem better than you? That way you can actually validate your idea before wasting months and years on development.
From passion to profit
Of course, you want to start your own business. It’s an entrepreneur’s natural inclination. But there’s a big difference between having an idea and being able to make it work as a viable business. The reality is, that most startup companies don’t survive past their first five years. To make your startup venture successful, you need three key things: passion, skills, and timing.
If you have two out of three elements (skills + passion) then maybe it’s time to go out there and take it to another level. However, if you are lacking in any one of these three areas – Passion, Skills, or Timing – then perhaps now is not the right time for you to start a new business. When it comes down to it, can a computer science student really succeed at starting his or her own company?
Can they do what others cannot? That depends on how much they put into their craft and how much they are willing to learn from those who know more than them. And that’s where real success lies in any industry; not just computer science or entrepreneurship.
Break free from the industry
Getting stuck in an industry you don’t love is pretty common—after all, it happens to many software engineers. (Just check out some of these computer science career success stories on Hired.) But starting your own business can get you out of that rut and into something you’re passionate about. Not sure where to start? Here are 5 places you could consider Write down three ideas for your side project.
If you’re having trouble coming up with ideas, try writing down three things you want to do or learn more about over the next month or year. Then, brainstorm ways to build products around those interests—that’s how most businesses begin!
Once you have three ideas written down, think through what each one would take to make happen: Is there existing demand for what you want to create? What will it cost and how long will it take? Can other people help with any part of building it? Now go pick one idea and run with it! You never know when your passion project might turn into a profitable business idea.
You can do both, be an engineer and start your own business
It is possible to be an engineer and still start your own business. Engineering degrees prepare you with technical skills, but that’s not all; it also gives you critical thinking and problem-solving skills. A lot of times, engineers will use their creativity in order to solve complex problems. There are many successful engineers that started their own businesses too! So don’t worry if you want to start your own business as well. You can do both at once!
Free yourself from the cage of your 9–5 job
Can you start a business as a student? Absolutely. I did it with my startup, SnapEngage. Most college students work one or two jobs in addition to their course load, and many spend countless hours studying for exams and perfecting their projects.
This leaves little time to build your own company, but you can make it happen—starting with just an idea and some determination. Here’s how:  Step 1: Identify an opportunity that aligns with your interests and then take action  Step 2: Make connections, be bold, and don’t give up!  Step 3: Bootstrap early and often
Have potential employers notice you more
To set yourself apart from your peers, actively pursue interests that distinguish you as an individual. If you enjoy speaking at conferences or writing online, then do it. One of my favorite pieces of advice comes from Bill Gates: Stand out by doing things that make you stand out.
Never forget that regardless of how smart you are or how much experience you have, employers will always judge you based on how relevant and interesting your resume is to them. Making connections and telling stories are two excellent ways to stand out. Your passion for computer science has gotten you to where you are today – keep going!
Network, network, network!
One of your first steps should be to reach out to people in your network and connect with them. You’ll likely find that many of them have valuable advice for you as well as introductions to other people you should talk to—and who could possibly know someone else in your network. In fact, networking may be one of the most important things you can do when looking for startup funding; it’s been said that 80% of funding is from personal contacts.
Luckily, networking doesn’t have to be difficult or intimidating—if you’re willing to get out there and talk with people! And don’t limit yourself: Seek out opportunities outside your immediate network—you never know where an introduction might lead you. Networking is really about connecting with others, so be genuine and approachable.
Ask questions about what they do, why they love their job, how they got started—that sort of thing. Don’t focus on selling your idea to them (at least not yet); just try to establish a connection by sharing some information about yourself. After all, if you like talking about yourself but are too nervous to do so in person, blogging offers a great outlet for practicing communication skills!
Learn how to pitch with confidence (video included!)
If you want to start a business while you’re still in school, one of your first steps is going to be meeting with an advisor. Depending on what you’re hoping to do, your advisor might come from academic resources like Berkeley Venture Mentors or 3rd Floor; or it could be someone working at Berkeley LaunchBox (the new entrepreneurship hub).
Whichever resource you work with, make sure that person checks out your idea for potential legal issues before you spend too much time and money on it. Most students don’t think about protecting their ideas—but failing to do so can mean losing control of something valuable and hard-won! And if you’re looking to sell your product or service after graduation, getting a patent will help ensure nobody else takes advantage of your hard work.
For more information on patents and how they can protect your idea, check out our video. It covers everything from how long patents last to what kinds of things are patentable. And if you’re interested in learning more about intellectual property protection as well as other aspects of starting a business–including writing a business plan–take a look at our video series. It’s designed specifically for people who are interested in starting businesses while they’re still in school!
Don’t give up
Endeavor, at UC Berkeley’s Haas School of Business, offers an environment where students can learn and gain real-world experience in entrepreneurship. Endeavor members are accepted through the application, and membership includes opportunities to hear guest speakers, interact with entrepreneurs and attend events. We hold regular office hours where students can receive guidance on starting their own companies.
Additionally, we have an annual fall and spring speaker series featuring prominent entrepreneurs such as Chris Anderson (3D Robotics), Michael and Xochi Birch (Bebo), Mike Maples Jr. (Flipside Tactics), and others who share their experiences in entrepreneurship. I highly recommend joining Endeavor if you want to become more involved in entrepreneurship or start your own company!
Endeavor – Center for Entrepreneurship @ UC Berkeley
Everyone thinks they have a great idea, right? The key is being able to spot opportunities and having an entrepreneurial mindset – that’s where Endeavor comes in. It’s our mission to equip entrepreneurs with these tools and to help them navigate challenges so they can achieve their goal of starting a business. Our programs are free for UC Berkeley students.
This is perfect if you’re interested in entrepreneurship but haven’t yet decided whether or not it’s right for you. You don’t need to be an engineering major, we accept students from all academic disciplines! Endeavor is a student-run entrepreneurship center at UC Berkeley focused on teaching and providing resources for students to start and grow their own businesses.
We provide high-quality classes and workshops, advising services, startup funding, networking opportunities, mentorship, training programs, and more. Our goal is to help you succeed in your entrepreneurial journey! To learn more about Endeavor, click here.
Yes, a computer science student can start a business. In fact, I think you’re already halfway there. It might be challenging to balance all your classes and extracurricular activities with entrepreneurship, but that’s why so many of us are on campus!
A university is an amazing place to pursue an idea because we have so many resources available to us that can help us succeed; don’t hesitate to take advantage of these resources if they sound useful!
If you need help finding your path as an entrepreneur and finding time for your studies, please feel free to reach out and contact me! We’ll be happy to chat over coffee or tea about how we can help.