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The Benefits of Being a Student While Founding Your Startup

Last night’s VeloCity Dinner was complimented by a visit from Mike McCauley and Jay Shah, co-founders of BufferBox.  BufferBox solves the problem of failed deliveries by providing a self-serve kiosk to which parcels are delivered, allowing individuals to retrieve them at convenient locations, 24/7.

Mike and Jay shared the benefits of being enrolled in university while simultaneously founding a startup:

  • Professors – especially those at the University of Waterloo – are extremely open to helping students succeed. The majority of BufferBox’s backend work was developed in classes. Instead of completing assignments as required in the syllabus, Mike and Jay altered them to work on BufferBox using concepts taught in class, convincing the professors that this form of applied learning was ideal.
  • Use your school experiences to find the perfect team. There is nothing worse than forming a team with the wrong individuals, especially where issues of legality in later years are concerned.  Group work allows you to target members who share similar interests and with whom you work well. You should also consider the size of these groups and the resulting effect on group decision-making. A large number of people can be passionate about a single idea, but have conflicting opinions for the direction in which to take that idea. It is much easier to come to a consensus as a small group.
  • Take advantage of competitions offered by your university. Schools often provide a number of business competitions (such as our own VeloCity Venture Fund Competition or Engineering’s 4th Year Design Competition). They’re a great way to practice your pitch, get feedback about your product, and, if you’re lucky, to win some money to build your prototype (as BufferBox did). They are also a great chance to make personal connections with influential individuals, like the judges. In addition, competitions can act as a measure of your interest in continuing that business idea. If you find yourself discouraged enough to quit after losing a competition, you’ll certainly find it difficult to establish yourself as a successful startup.