Some remarks relevant to young aspiring entrepreneurs:

Entrepreneurship and age

• In Why to not not start a startup, venture capitalist Paul Graham says he thinks that the chances of creating a successful startup increase with age up to 23 (at least), but that the best way to gain experience relevant to creating a successful startup is to try creating a startup. He suggests that in unusual cases, 16 year olds may be equipped to create a startup. 

Whether or not to go to college

• Going to college (especially an elite college) gives one the opportunity to find cofounders and early employees. Mark Zuckerberg met the early employees of Facebook while at Harvard. Drew Houston met a number of the early Dropbox employees while at MIT.

• It's rare for highly successful entrepreneurs to not have started college. Sean Parker (Napster founder & venture capitalist) skipped college but was already earning $80k+/year by his senior year of high school, which is very unusual. See also stay mainstream until you have demonstrated success doing unusual stuff

• The general consensus in the comments on the Hacker News question To go or not to go college? seems to be that even a highly skilled high school programmer should go to college. However, the remarks therein are not directed at entrepreneurs specifically.

Creating a company while in college

• Entrepreneur Nate Berkopec wrote that an aspiring entrepreneur can learn more through starting a business than through coursework, which is very plausible.

• Entrepreneur Jason Baptiste suggests that rather than creating a company while in college, one should instead work on a less time-consuming side project, and see where it leads.

• If one does find a cofounder and has a promising project, there seems to be little harm in taking time off from college to work on a startup. However, unless one is exceptionally talented, the project probably won't be sufficiently successful so as to furnish a decisive case for not completing a degree.

• In Why to not not start a startup, Paul Graham says that he wouldn't feel comfortable recommending that somebody with a family do a startup. So all else being equal, one should try earlier in life rather than later in life, and this is an argument in favor of working on something entrepreneurial while in college.

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I'm increasingly of the opinion that tech entrepreneurship is over-hyped as a career path. It's good for some people to do it, and it's good for society that some people do it, but there's currently too many people doing it. There are many, many other important career paths for people to take. Probably the central problem is that too many career paths are dominated by overly bureaucratized, politicized, and stagnant institutions (academia, the military, the church, the health care system, the government, Big Pharma, other big mainstream companies, etc), while doing a tech startup allows one to succeed without playing ball with these mindless behemoths. But the real solution to the problem isn't for everyone to go into tech, it's to find a way to reinvent the old institutions.


There's a sneaky thing you did here where the original post is talking about entrepreneurship, and you changed the discussion to be about tech entrepreneurship.

There are quite a bit of non-tech (and tech) entrepreneurs who are looking to revolutionize health care, academia, Big pharma, etc. Furthermore, there's an increasing awareness that the skills of entrepreneurship can be used even outside of the private sector. Thus, the rise of "social entrepreneurship", and the increasing embrace of lean startup principles by governments.

In short, just because tech entrepreneurship (particularly mobile apps) are over-hyped, that doesn't mean that entrepreneurship itself is overhyped.

A tech company like IBM is doing things in the health care system by letting Watson loose on making lung cancer treatment decisions that existing players in the health field just wouldn't do.

Building the tech that you need to track heart rate and skin resistance 24/7 on a high resolution and analysing that data properly might be a lot more important than spending billions on drug research.

On the government front, there even more need for tech companies to get involved. I think parliaments would be a lot more effective if they would have proper tools for editing and discussing laws that work on git like architecture instead of people mailing around word documents. It would make it a lot more transparent who brought which amendment at which time into a law.

As far as interacting with city government there at the moment no tool that allow me to say: There a hole in the street XY, I think it would be good if my dear city government would fix it.

When city government decides to fix a hole on the street on the other hand there no good way the information get's transmitted to people who care about the issue.

Being a tech startup in no way implies that you can't solve problems that are more important than building the next social networking platform or a better version of Farmville.

As far as interacting with city government there at the moment no tool that allow me to say: There a hole in the street XY, I think it would be good if my dear city government would fix it.

A telephone is one.

A telephone.

That assumes I know who's responsible in my city for deciding how which hole will get fixed at which moment and that they have valid internal processes to integrate the information into their workflow.

It would be ideal if all the information about city maintenance would go through some Open Street Map based system. See an issue that needs fixing? Load your local city app and make a photo which directly gives the information to the bureaucrat that's responsible for the issue.

If you stand next to a new construction site and you are interest in what's going on, simply getting the information via a smart phone would be convenient.

Yes you could go to the local building administration government building and read the paper documents about what's supposed to be build but that's a complex process.

If you want to engage people political into their local community, than it's useful to make the information about who decides how long a given traffic light shows "green" freely available.

Take an issue like guerrilla gardening. A citizens who wants to make his local community more beautiful plants a few plants that benefit his community. Even if his neighbors support his project, the most local governments are likely to be opposed to plants being planted that aren't in their city planning.

Creating political structures that solve the communication hurdles will require to write code and a lot of smart thinking about how the structures of making political decisions should look like.

Why should the government pay to manage a local park. Why not simply declare everyone who lives within 2 miles of the park as eligible to vote in liquid democracy fashion about how the park should look like and see whether there are citizens you actually have fun maintaining the park as a hobby?

Telephones just aren't good enough technology to manage the kind of information flow that you need for such political processes. Governments want strong neighborhoods were citizens engage but they are not smart enough to produce the necessary systems themselves.

You need smart tech people who come and say: "If you give me a million I can give you a cool way to engage your citizens into having an effect on their neighborhood. The project will seem really cool and modern and visible to voters."

You could even do it as open source, because governments need tech people who implement and integrate the project.

That a much better way to make an impact than on how government works than by become a career bureaucrat because there an enormous power in writing code.


My current thinking on it goes something like this:

Startup success in my view is based on something like 70% luck, 20% skill, and 10% resources.

This means that even assuming you have the best network, most money, and ultimate skill, 7 out of 10 startups you create will fail.

Because luck is the most important factor in a startup, it makes sense to maximize your opportunities to get lucky. It's better to start earlier with less skill, and have the opportunity to spin the wheel more times, than it is to wait to get more experience or go to college and get skills.

This view also suggests that it might be better to be trying 2-3 ventures at once, as long as the dillution of effort is offset by the opportunity to spin the wheel.