Lessons Learned: We Are Not Alone

HireCanvas is improving the campus recruiting experience for recruiters, universities, and students by managing data at live events.

As co-founders of an early stage startup, my cofounder, Kevin, and I spent a lot of our early days searching for answers. And even today, during NYU’s Summer Launchpad, we are engaging our customers and mentors on a regular basis in search of answers and advice.

As first time entrepreneurs, there are many things that we learned, and are still learning, for the very first time. We didn’t know how to build a business, we didn’t know how to develop a product, and we didn’t know how to pitch our startup in 30 seconds. As we began working on HireCanvas, these unknowns were major obstacles, but we learned early on that we weren’t alone. There were other entrepreneurs currently experiencing these same obstacles, as well as even more entrepreneurs who just recently went through the same experience. And, it was through them and with their help that we were able to overcome these obstacles.

So, if there’s one lesson that I could share with aspiring entrepreneurs, or anyone taking on a major challenge, it is that you are not alone. There are so many resources out there in your network and surrounding community.

Here are three resources that our team has found invaluable to leveraging our network and community for answers and advice on every obstacles in building a startup:

1. LinkedIn: Whether it’s your personal connections or your 2nd degree connections, there are people you are connected to that can help. Quick search based on keywords, industry or interest to find relevant people in your network. Plus, LinkedIn’s groups often bring together thought leaders on a given industry or topic, so find the groups that you can benefit from. And, of course, be sure to follow up with every person you meet (using  your best judgement!) with a connection request. The more connections you have, the more your network grows. You never know who someone might be able to introduce you to. For example, this past spring I saw that a friend of mine was connected to a recruiter at Gilt, where she worked. I asked for an introduction, and by the end of the month, we were working with them at recruiting events as part of our pilot program.

2. Meetup: Meetup makes it easy to find local groups that you can meet up with in person.  Meetups are organized around different topics and interest areas, so if you're interested in meeting industry professionals or others working within a given sector or industry, or even people that like juggling in Rapid City South Dakota, Meetup is the perfect resource. Kevin and I were able to meet a number of people in the HR and Tech communities that have provided us with great advice and opened up their networks to us. You can do the same. For example, Kevin and I are regular attendees of the NY Tech Meetup where we have built strong relationships with tech thought leaders like Dawn Barber, co-founder of NY Tech Meetup, and mayoral candidate Jack Hidary.

3. Universities:  Professors, students, departments, and organizations within universities can be extremely useful, especially if you are current student or an alumni. Through NYU, Kevin and I have benefited from a number of resources and connections, including the Summer Launchpad Program and the NYU Entrepreneurs Challenge. Both have allowed us to expand our network and grow our business. For us, through university sponsored programs like the Summer LaunchPad and the $200K Entrepreneurs Challenge we have had the opportunity to meet seasoned industry experts and investors like Brian Cohen of NY Angels and Fred Wilson of Union Square Ventures.

With just these three resources (and there are plenty more!), you should never feel at a loss when it comes to finding like-minded peers, mentors and advisors to help you overcome the obstacles of running an early stage startup. So, it should be a piece of cake now right? Well, let’s no go that far, but this should help. Now all you have to do is get out there and do it!

This post is part of the Lessons Learned series featuring NYU entrepreneurs’ first-hand accounts of challenges faced in starting a business and the lessons learned along the way.