Starting Up

Think entrepreneurship is for you? Here are a few things you need to know to get started from Director of Entrepreneurship Dave Lerner.


Get in the Right Mindset

Launching and eventually operating a company takes vision, grit and the right network. You may be considering the startup world because you have the first two down, and now you need to know that you also have the skills and the ability to build great connections, especially if you are a student! Your student years are the best time in your life to do so because there is no downside. Get in the mindset that you are going to dive into this space and just learn, meet people and sharpen your skills. Just make sure that you…


Get Connected

Start developing some subject matter expertise in the area that you want to build your business in. You can’t go in with a fixed mindset on exactly what you are going to do without really knowing what’s out there and what’s possible, so start talking to people in the industry. Research, read, get out into that community, and learn everything you can about that landscape. You should be able to understand what already exists, why, what came before, and what obstacles might be up ahead.

You also need to dive into the startup community (like Columbia’s!) Meet everyone, be friendly – have fun and get involved – don’t be a wallflower. Learn from people who are on the same journey as you and seek out those who have done this before or are further along who can help you figure out how best to structure your startup. 

Startup ecosystems are incredibly welcoming and warm environments. For the most part, these ecosystems are composed of people like you who are excited to learn and build something new. If you’re a student, they’re typically extra welcoming. Just be honest and tell folks you are a student and are diving-into the startup community. You’ll typically get high-fives.

Spending enough time in the community will eventually mean you’ll be able to…


Get a Mentor

This isn’t about going up to someone who seems like a good fit and asking for mentorship. True mentorship comes about naturally. 

As you immerse yourself in your chosen industry and the local startup community, keep your eyes open for experienced and successful people who might be inclined to help you. Perhaps they went to the same college as you did or simply love what you are trying to create. When you find such a person, get to know them and take your time – don’t clumsily ask them to mentor you on your first or second meeting. Let it happen organically. Usually, the conversations will just head in the direction of advice and mentorship – all you need to do is roll with it at that point!

To learn more about where to get connected at Columbia, check out this blog post, keep an eye on this cross-campus events calendar, and dive into resources that can help you get started on your big idea here

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