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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!


My response to 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…


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?


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.


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?