The Bitcoin revolution has demonstrated one thing—innovation rules the roost. With the expansion of the Internet of Things, the cryptocurrency market, the sharing economy, and every other advancement that has descended upon Silicon Valley in the last few years, innovators and technologists are chomping at the bit to bring the world the latest revolution. For the rising stars of tomorrow’s workforce, now is the moment to develop vision and entrepreneurial acumen. If you don’t launch your first startup at 17, that’s ok. Elon Musk didn’t start Zip2 until he was 24, but believe it or not, right now, when you’re still in high school, when you have no kids, no mortgage, and no job that demands 40+ of your hours each week, is as good a time as any for you young entrepreneurs to get going with your dreams.
In the book Outliers, Malcolm Gladwell recounts the journeys of some of today’s greatest entrepreneurial minds. According to Gladwell, it wasn’t sheer genius that set Bill Gates apart, but rather, hours he spent in his free time as a kid developing an expertise in computers. As Gladwell notes, Gates did not only become an expert in computer language, but he also secured an internship with a tech company that allowed him to dive further into the world from a young age.
Consider the summer between junior and senior years, not only a great time to get started on your next big idea, but also an opportunity to get ahead in the college process when your competition will still be at summer camp.
According to Gladwell, Gates invested over 10,000 hours in working on the computer. So, it wasn’t just that Gates was a genius businessman or scientific innovator, he had a niche. If you know you want to dive into the startup world, try honing in on a specific area. That might seem like a scary idea at 17, but you can always change your mind later. So, for now, reflect upon the kinds of things you like, the things you already spend time reading up on, and just take the next best step. Don’t just be interested in entrepreneurship, or even tech entrepreneurship. That’s too generic. If you like the idea of tech entrepreneurship around travel, healthcare, or cryptocurrencies, choose it, and go full throttle for now.
Enroll in a Rigorous College Course
Many of the nation’s top universities offer summer-session college courses for high school students. If you’re interested in starting a business, it might be a good idea to learn from some of the nation’s top academics. If you’d like to split your summer between a course and say, an internship, check out one of the shorter immersive programs. Berkeley’s Haas School of Business offers a two-week program in entrepreneurship. Georgetown offers a one-week program for young entrepreneurs. Columbia also offers an immersive one-week course on entrepreneurship in which high schoolers can learn about business modeling. Babson College offers a longer, four-week program in which high schoolers actually conceptualize a new venture during the course. Even though taking a college course won’t increase your chances with the particular university where you study, it will look good on your resume overall.
Secure an Impressive Internship
Snagging an internship is another great way to invest your time this summer. If you go this route, your goal should be to secure something prestigious. Many of the major companies out there don’t offer structured internship programs for high schoolers. That’s okay. While it might mean a bit of extra research and outreach on your part, designing and securing your own internship will put you ahead of your competition.
Try to secure something at a more established company like AirBnB, Uber, WeWork, or Linkedin. Alternatively, catch up with your startup news and try getting in with an organization that is on its way to being the next big thing like Lola, Acorns, or InstaCart, to name a few. If you really want to gain some insight into what it takes to build a company from the ground up, find a startup that interests you that is closer to the ground floor (perhaps one that has secured some round of funding so you know it probably won’t fold by the end of the summer) and jump right in.
The goal of this internship should be to learn as much as possible, find a mentor, and build relationships that will help you in professional endeavors down the line. If you will just be getting coffee and making copies, don’t take it. Your best bet is to go in with a really clear idea of what you want to learn and then reach out to the people inside of that organization who could support you in getting there. If you need some help securing a hard-to-land internship or designing your own, reach out to us. We’ve set many of our students up with impressive internships.
Launch Your Own Startup
For every Facebook, there are a thousand others ventures that flopped. Hardly anyone makes it on the first go. While the prospect of failure can be intimidating, the idea is that in order to reap the rewards, entrepreneurs must take risks. While launching your endeavor might sound risky, there may be no better time in your life than the present to get going on your dream. Why not invest your time this summer in getting a leg up on your own big idea?
If you’re going to launch your own startup this summer, be sure you have a roadmap. If you’ve already developed a business plan, consider taking it full throttle. If you are just getting started, consider taking a college course or an internship and using your spare time to find a successful entrepreneur (or team of entrepreneurs) to mentor you and help you develop your idea.
Need help securing a competitive internship? We’re great at helping kids design impressive summer activities. Reach out to us here.