I won’t lie. I didn’t attend college. I was very close, but I had a pre-launch opportunity come along and I decided to go for it. If I hadn’t I would probably be sitting in a classroom learning about how the Roman empire conquered a piece of land that I don’t care about—at all.
Gravity4, a global software advertising company, has only recently launched, but I can already say that I’ve learned more in these past few months working in a startup environment than I ever could at a “prestigious” university. Instead, the office is my classroom, my team—they are my classmates—and my “professor” is my mentor, Gurbaksh Chahal, Founder, Chairman & CEO of Gravity4.
For would-be entrepreneurs who want to get their feet wet in the startup world – working at one is a great start. Here are four things being a part of the Gravity4 launch team has taught me – more than I could have ever learned in the classroom:
Welcome to reality.
When you attend school, no one really gives you much structure on assignments. In my experience, I have only had one or two classes where the assignments actually mirrored real life, and they were very surface level at best.
At 18, I have gained experience that most don’t encounter until their mid-30’s. I’ve seen a company go from pre-launch (48 hours-straight in a conference room), to launch; and now to a stage where we are bringing in revenue.
Working at a startup has exposed me to the process of acquiring a company from beginning to end. I took lead on launching a contributor-driven publication platform, #BeLimitless, that closed 1 million uniques in the first month. I have also witnessed the highs and the lows of startup life. And this is what the college experience cannot buy you. It truly is, priceless.
Learn how to actually “do” business.
Not many universities offer business ethics courses anymore, to my knowledge. For the most part, it’s just assumed. They also don’t have “Hustle 101” courses to teach students how to build better businesses.
Ideas can be good, but it’s 1% of the equation, the other 99% is execution. For instance, I quickly learned how to navigate potential acquisitions. Although, Gurbaksh asked the questions, he would guide me and I would execute on his wisdom. So far, learning how to execute has been one of my greatest lessons.
Become a man of many hats.
When you help grow a company from the ground up, you learn very quickly how to wear many hats. From setting up a computer and taking out the trash, to leading a team of engineers, to building an app. You name it – you learn it (mostly on your own). And you will have to learn fast – time is of the essence.
I quickly had to take all of the skills I learned from 18 years of existence, and combine them with creativity to no limits. When you’re working at a startup, you are challenged much more than any classroom environment.
Real value and real reward.
When it comes to college school assignments, it’s easy to make mistakes because there’s no real risk involved. You’ll still pass, even if you fail one assignment. But, when you raise the stakes – real money, real effort, real resources are at risk and there’s no room for mistakes.
I’ve learned that everything you do has to be done with the best ROI in mind. Poor choices don’t just affect you alone, they can impact an entire company. Theories taught at universities are great, but getting out there and actually applying them is much more rewarding.
I’m not saying I have anything against going to college, but with the path I chose… I don’t think there was any better education than the real world for me.
Working at a startup often means you become part of a family. One that goes through its ups and downs; yet no matter what, you always give your trust, loyalty, and commitment to each other to create something bigger than yourself. Memories will be made, friendships born, and records broken.
For the rest of your life, whether it’s seeing your product used daily, or the success you wake up to, you will always remember the family that put it together. There has never been a time in my life that I have been more content with my decision to work at a startup. It’s the best decision I’ve made to-date … something I will always appreciate.
This article has been edited and condensed.
Nik Sharma is the head of Marketing & Corporate Development at Gravity4, the world’s first high-frequency marketing OS. Sharma, an entrepreneur, also founded and runs the contributor platform #Belimitless, a media platform for today’s generation. He currently resides in San Francisco. Connect with @Gravity4 on Twitter.
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