Nowadays, young entrepreneurs in record numbers are doing what would have seemed impossible even just 10 years ago: they're starting their own companies from scratch -- often with little to no startup capital, and sometimes while they're still completing their degrees.
With the democratization of free or inexpensive software tools like Amazon Web Services, combined with the wealth of resources on starting a business that the internet provides, the roadblocks that would've stopped budding entrepreneurs in years past are now easily avoided, with key information available at your fingertips.
Still, for young entrepreneurs who are creating companies for the first time, this increased accessibility is a double-edged sword. On one hand, it makes starting a business easier than ever; on the other, it has created a saturated marketplace that becomes more competitive by the day.
In order to succeed in such a crowded market, startups need to make themselves stand out. To that end, programs like Rough Draft Ventures (powered by venture capital firm General Catalyst) help fund budding student entrepreneurs so they can turn promising startups into established, successful businesses.
But what, exactly, makes a startup distinguish itself from the masses? Peter Boyce II, co-founder of Rough Draft Ventures, identifies three key markers that point to future success.
1. A team with complementary skill sets.
A great idea starts with great people. According to Boyce, starting a company isn't a one-person job: finding collaborators to help you on your entrepreneurial endeavor is essential, whether they are other students, trusted advisors, roommates, or professors.
Especially for student entrepreneurs -- who are busy juggling their business with their classwork and extracurricular activities -- it's crucial that all team members are not only passionate about what they do, but also have tip-top time management skills.
Boyce says, however, that one of the most important qualities of a successful team is a complementary combination of skills. "You want a diversity of talent -- someone who can build relationships & make presentations, somebody who can lead the product development, someone who can recruit and create company culture," Boyce explains.
2. A clear vision for the future.
Running a startup requires singular, focused attention. However, with so many exciting new advances in business and technology, entrepreneurs can be prone to capricious, short-lived interests that last only a few weeks or months.
Therefore, when deciding which companies to invest in, Boyce makes sure that startups have a clear and viable vision for the future. "You can tell when somebody's really done their research," Boyce explains. "That's what reveals if they're really in it for the long haul, and if they're imagining the team they will need as well as the shifts in software that will accelerate their opportunity."
To that end, Boyce stresses the importance of being able to clearly articulate your company's message. "It's clear when an entrepreneur has spent hours refining and exploring the details of their product -- from the design of their presentation deck to the UI feedback on their first MVPs," says Boyce. Doing so conveys to your investors that you're serious about your company and have the communication skills to express your ideas effectively.
3. The ability to turn an idea into a product.
This is a real barrier for early stage entrepreneurs to overcome: everyone can have a great idea, but can you actually bring that idea from the realm of the abstract into reality?
"The ability to take unique insights & motivations and transform them into a product will, down the road, translate into community or customer reception. This gives you reliable metrics for evaluating the traction and feasibility of your product," Boyce remarks.
With the ever-growing repository of resources that are available to young entrepreneurs, it's more possible than ever to move from concept to product -- but it requires a lot of implementing, planning, and hard work.
"We're really encouraged and excited when folks are able to take the time to go from their first hunch to having something that they can build upon and iterate on," says Boyce.
These three qualities are great indicators of a startup's prospects for future success -- and they're the qualities that Boyce has found in the over 80 student-founded companies that Rough Draft Ventures has supported.
Boyce will also collaborate with Forbes to host the Global Change the World competition at the Under 30 Summit, which will take place this October 16 - 19 in Boston. The $500,000 global competition will celebrate early-stage entrepreneurs who have disruptive and scalable ideas with the potential to change the world -- and with the three crucial qualities outlined above.
Ultimately, as creating a startup becomes a more and more viable option for young entrepreneurs, the marketplace will only become even more competitive. But by embodying the traits on this list, startups can distinguish themselves from the masses and set themselves up for success.
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