By Betty Hsu WG’14, Founder of ProfessorWord
Editor’s Note: This post originally appeared in Education Week.
I worked on ProfessorWord while I was an MBA student, so I’m often asked about my experiences as a “studentpreneur.” One common question is whether I think graduate school is a good time to launch a startup.
I think it’s a GREAT time. In fact, in some ways, it’s the best time. Here’s why:
1. You’re already poor, so adopting the entrepreneurship lifestyle of eating ramen for all meals is a breeze. Plus, you can use some of your student loan money as seed money for your startup. Just kidding.
2. You only have 15 to 20 hours of classes, so what else are you going to do with your time? Okay, you have to study and write papers and all that good stuff, but in my experience, you really do have more free time as a graduate student compared to as a full-time employee. And perhaps, most importantly, you have more control over your time. So if you want, you can make the time to work on your startup.
3. When you’re employed full-time, it can be tricky balancing your duties to your employer (i.e., confidentiality, intellectual property, non-competes, etc.) with working on your startup, especially if your startup operates in the same sphere. As a student, many (though not all) of these issues go away.
4. You have access to hundreds of resources, a.k.a., your classmates and professors! Need feedback on your pitch or users to beta-test your product? Chances are, you can find people who can help you out. Not only that, if you’re looking for a partner, there’s a great pool of potential co-founders to work with.
5. You have the resources of a whole university at your disposal. For example, I was able to access almost any research paper ever written about vocabulary acquisition thanks to the university library. I was also able to work with the legal clinic at the law school to get answers to our intellectual property questions.
6. Why not? Seriously. Why not? The only reason I can think of is that by devoting time to working on a startup, you might not get the “full” school experience. It’s possible you might not be 100 percent prepared for class every day (guilty as charged) or you might miss out on important school events (you can’t hit all the parties).
All of that is true. But it’s up to you to decide what you want your “full” graduate school experience to be. You’re paying a lot to be in graduate school, both in tuition and in opportunity cost, so make the most of it. The way I look at it, if your startup dreams don’t quite materialize by graduation, then at least you’ll have your degree to help you in the next step of your career.
So if you’re debating between going to graduate school and launching a startup, ask yourself, why not do both?
Bio: Betty Hsu is recent graduate of the Wharton School and a co-founder of online vocabulary improvement company ProfessorWord.