Safety points

Startups are cool. But hype often hides the pitfalls

Entrepreneurship is now 'cool' and this is a good thing. Given the high risks involved in starting a business, the feel-good factor associated with entrepreneurship is a key motivating factor for students who want to take the plunge. However, the hype and increasing media coverage often hide the more difficult side of entrepreneurship. Here are three points students should keep in mind:


Entrepreneurship is hard
Ideating is challenging enough, but it is tougher still to convert an idea into a product, sell it, and build a team and a supply chain around it. These require strength, endurance and patience and, in many cases, access to deep pockets.

Entrepreneurship is long
Most successful entrepreneurs are those who persevere. Entrepreneurs rarely get it completely right the first time. Rather, they intercept subtle signals from the market and continually innovate to come up with a winning solution. This can take years.

Entrepreneurship finds you
As much as you are drawn to entrepreneurship, this path is not for everyone. Taking up entrepreneurship means embracing a lifestyle, which suits some more than others. Also, there comes a time when, to quote Louis Pasteur, “chance meets the prepared mind”, and the time to start you own business may not always be right after college. Perhaps the more high-tech the venture is, the more the benefits of work experience or specialised knowledge and skill sets.

Notwithstanding all this, entrepreneurship is best embarked upon when you have the ability to take risks. And, what better time than when you have the fullness and optimism of youth. However, finding the right support is crucial and, thanks to the growth of dynamic academic incubators, this is increasingly possible.

At IIT-Madras, the entrepreneurial ecosystem steered by the incubation cell, together with sector-specific incubators and pre-incubation programmes, is geared to effectively address all these aspects of the startup cycle. The startup path begins with mentoring, which hones various aspects of the venture and ensures a coherent team structure, technical soundness, and knowledge of business, markets and financials. Once admitted into incubation, startups get office space and access to a range of support services such as accounting, legal and IP service providers. Startups also get access to seed and early-stage funding, allowing them to experiment and create minimal viable products before market entry. Mentors and consultants, along with world-class faculty and research facilities, are available to monitor the progress of the startup and help in taking corrective action wherever necessary.

Mahalingam is faculty adviser, E-cell, at IIT-Madras; Ghosh is CEO, IIT-Madras incubation cell.

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