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    Message from an Aspiring Entrepreneur

    The recent discussions of entrepreneurship here prompted several entrepreneurs to contact me, both via email and in person. Here is one kindred-spirit’s story, reproduced (and edited) with permission.

    Hey Dave,

    I’ve been reading your blog for the last week or so, and I wanted to let you know I appreciate your thoughtful angle on entrepreneurship, design, and intellectual life. Like many of your posts indicate, the challenges of developing personal creativity and starting something new are profound in our current culture. Last June I graduated with an engineering degree from the University of Maryland. Instead of acting on ideas to change the world, I did, as most graduates do these days, took the full time job that paid the most. (Chris Dixon’s post on the topic hits it). Add consulting and government consulting to where all the talent goes in the DMV. To a college kid, the prospects of a $70,000 salary are blinding. And if you consider yourself a self-starter, you realize quickly that you are fighting a powerful majority that would call you crazy for not taking such a lucrative offer.

    That said, I have devoted a lot of my free time to developing my startup ideas through mockups and requirements. Yet, despite my engineering background, I just don’t see myself as the technical co-founder that many think is the necessary half of successful startup teams. I can spend hours reworking code, but developing from scratch is beyond me. So the question I have been struggling with is how do I find the real technical partner? As you posted, startups are about the people, but finding that passionate partner is incredibly difficult.

    My current idea that I have been toying with revolves around [redacted]. From mobile app, to website … I am at a point where I would consider outsourcing app development, just because I believe in my idea and want to make progress. However, say a couple months into the future, I now have an iPhone App (and a lot less money) but I still don’t have a team to further the idea. In addition, I am not so sure my concept has clear profitability, but at my age (23) what’s wrong with idealism as a starting point?

    Sorry for the length, but I wanted to offer some of my thoughts as to what it means to be on the outside of entrepreneurship, wanting in. Any return advice would be great!

    Regards,
    Lance


    My response to Lance:

    Lance,

    Thanks for writing! Certainly sounds like you have the right spirit about things, and I agree with you re: Chris Dixon’s post. He’s got a very good take on things.

    Some things I’d recommend:

    1. Subscribe to Startup Digest Baltimore. Go to http://thestartupdigest.com

    2. Go to Innovate Baltimore on Wednesday 5/19 and introduce yourself. http://innovatebaltimore.com

    3. Come hang out at Beehive Baltimore. It’s where the community is centered. http://beehivebaltimore.org

    4. Let’s find a time to talk some more. I am out of town for two weeks starting next Friday but we can find a time in June. Pick something: http://tungle.me/davetroy

    Looking forward to meeting you!

    Do you mind if I share your note, along with my response, on my blog?

    I want to keep reminding people that there are LOTS of people like you out there…

    Best,
    Dave


    Response from Lance:

    Sure. No problem. If you could edit out the sentence or two about my current idea, that would be great. Also, I currently live in the Northern Virginia area, so I’ve been on the DC and Baltimore Startup since I was introduced to them at BootstrapMD. I just started looking for resources like InnovateBaltimore and BeehiveBaltimore around DC. Any suggestions?

    Thanks,
    Lance


    My response to Lance:

    OK, thanks.

    You should consider moving to Baltimore as the startup + coworking scene is now a lot more active. Innovate and Beehive are just the tip of the iceberg.

    There are some OK things going on in the DC area (Founders Institute, Launchbox Digital, Social Matchbox, DC Week), they run on weird schedules and are not active all the time. Baltimore’s scene is a lot more persistent and becoming much more interesting. Affinity Lab is like an expensive corporate version of coworking. Beehive is real coworking.

    Anyway, I’m biased, but this is something we’re serious about in Baltimore and we’re committed to making it happen, all the way from the Governor to the Mayor to each individual startup.

    Hope to see you around the Hive soon.

    Best,
    Dave


    Why is being an entrepreneur considered so unusual in our university culture? I have a theory.

    Bill Gates: dropout. Paul Allen: dropout. Steve Ballmer: dropout. Richard Branson: dropout. Warren Buffett: dropout. See a pattern?

    Entrepreneurship is the opposite of University culture, which celebrates progressive levels of achievement, with the ultimate goal of becoming a college professor. Entrepreneurs create the circumstances of their own success, by changing the world around them and making their own game.

    I’m not suggesting anyone dropout, but we do have to ask: is our educational system creating maximum value for society? Or is it just creating clones, steeped in the idea that there is only one true path to security and achievement, which are then manipulated by true entrepreneurs and leaders who really know how to shape the world around them? And which are you?

    • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=3800246 Scott Messinger

      Dave,

      I completely agree that “entrepreneurship is the opposite of University culture.” I've always found college entrepreneurship programs odd for this very reason.

      Lance,

      I've been there. Like Dave, I believe strongly in the importance of a great team. Like you, I haven't found a technical co-founder. I decided to fix that problem by learning how to program. While I'm years away from being a truly competent developer, I am developing the skills to release a MVP. Having never met you, I believe you can learn to program and create something “from scratch,” too. Why? Ruby on Rails makes it possible for people like ourselves to create decent apps.

      Finding a technical co-founder is like falling in love: you can't make it happen. While you can put yourself in places where you're more likely to find a technical co-founder (SF, meetup groups, networking events, etc), it's still outside of your control. Sometimes you get lucky, sometimes you don't. Put your energy into things you can control: learn how to program, write a business plan, try to get funding.

      This won't be the first time you think, “I can't be successful if I don't have _____.” It's a lie. Startups are the improbable endeavor. They never have enough money, people, experience, etc. And they still succeed.

      People are drawn to powerful ideas and inspirational people. If you start creating this, eventually people will want to join you. Do what you can do now and let the team follow.

      If you want to talk about learning how to program, e-mail me at scottmessinger at gmail dot com.

      Cheers,
      Scott

    • http://twitter.com/davetroy Dave Troy

      These are FANTASTIC comments, Scott.

      Your point about focusing on the things you can control is SPOT ON and something I am continually recommending to people.

      Also your point about finding technical talent — people are always asking me “Where can I find a developer who can do X?” and my response is “Go hang out at Beehive and other places they lurk.”

      Only by interacting with people on an ongoing basis can you form the relationships — and inspire people with your vision — that can help you achieve your goals.

      Good stuff, Scott. Glad to have you in the community!

    • http://subelsky.com Mike Subelsky

      Lance, your message struck a chord with me (as I'm sure it will with many others). I happened to luck into an opportunity to be the technical cofounder of my company, but I'm working to make the process easier and more serendipitous here in Baltimore. I'd be glad to meet with you in person or chat over the phone about what your next moves should be. Email me — mike@subelsky.com

    • http://www.mobtownlabs.com BmoreWire

      Lance,
      On you not being the technical founder…….yes you are. Get some books and go to some wiki's and learn to do it yourself.