As part of our Ask Me Anything series, we invite you to stop by to ask questions, network and learn more about entrepreneurship at Columbia. Join us to learn about entrepreneurship through a multidisciplinary and cross functional lens. Attend sessions to hear our personal stories of entrepreneurship at Columbia – through senior capstones, club projects, passion projects, hackathons, and competitions – to create spaces for anyone seeking to make an impact.
We ask participants to obey and follow the Columbia Student Conduct and Community Standards.
Stop by our AMA with any questions!
Just starting your entrepreneurial journey?
- Find out about student groups and different communities at Columbia
- Work on ideation and customer discovery opportunities
- Figure out what tools are available to get started today
- Discover the resources available on campus and virtually
- Learn where to plug in Columbia’s wide-ranging entrepreneurial community
Or are you further along in your endeavor?
- Join for endless networking opportunities
- Find a co-founder or team members
- Meet other entrepreneurs and alumni
- Receive feedback from the Columbia community
- Learn about potential funding opportunities
Previous AMA sessions
Patrick Varuzza (3rd from left) poses with AMA Attendees
Patrick Varuzza SEAS 20, C0-Founder of Hubbub
- Philosophical alignment is paramount in building a team
While building a team with complementary skill sets is important to efficiently scale your startup, it’s even more important to find teammates that share your enthusiasm for the problem that you’re trying to solve. At the same time, it’s also important that your team brings in different perspectives to foster productive discourse.
- Storytelling is important for gaining investors
When pitching to investors, it’s best to optimize your narrative based on what and how you’ve reached milestones. For example, using a spreadsheet to start out with instead of a website might seem like something to omit from a pitch, but this can actually be framed to show resourcefulness and creativity.
- Don’t be afraid to get opinions from people on your idea
Founders are often afraid that sharing their ideas with other people might lead them to steal said ideas. While this is possible in theory, in practice, the potential benefits of getting external perspectives on the idea far outweigh the negligible risk of somebody stealing the idea.
Alon Grinshpoon (MSCS’18), Founder and CEO of echoAR
1. Your startup idea should be a reflection of you
A significant factor in de-risking your startup is proving that you are the perfect person to run the company. When an investor looks at your resume, there should be no doubt why you are entering that specific market space.
2. Customer discovery never stops
In the startup stage, document every interview you have and make minor adjustments to your product to better address your market’s needs. When you become an official business, every conversation is relevant in the expansion of your service/product’s application.
3. Don’t take rejections from investors personally
Either that investor is not a good fit for your company or you need to provide more evidence of profit. When pitching to an investor who is reluctant to invest due to lack of profits, use “if, then” statements: “if we reach $10K in profits, then you’ll invest.” And once you reach that point in your startup, you can go back to those investors.
Abby Lyall, VP at Big Idea Ventures
1. Don’t ignore your school’s grant funding
Research what grants your school offers for student entrepreneurs. These grants will help you gain seed investors because they like to see money in the bank and recognition.
2. Start off small
If you want to get in contact with a person/company of high repertoire try to go for a smaller customer base first and build a good case study. Then you are able to progress to bigger customer bases by presenting the customer data you collected.
3. Venture capitalists invest within specific industries
VCs usually give money to a specific market. Make sure to do research on who you are reaching out to and find out if they invest in your industry.