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Kickstart

Start 'Em Up

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Entreprenuers share advice for startups

Rice Business is known for building entrepreneurs — the Princeton Review and Entrepreneur magazine, for example, have ranked us No.1 for five years running. Our students have a lot going for them: for example, professors who encourage innovation and places like Liu Idea Lab and Rice Alliance that support their work.

Students also have a large alumni network. In this ongoing series, we turn to our established entrepreneurs for advice on how the next generation can successfully launch and grow their ventures.

This time, we tapped into the expertise of the 200-plus participants in Rice Alumni Entrepreneurs and Innovators roundtables — forums that foster peer-to-peer support within a small group of organization founders. We asked them: How does a founder know when to take the leap and start running their startup full time?

Here’s what these experienced entrepreneurs had to say.

How Do You Know When to Take the Leap? 

You take the leap when you’ve validated your thesis or idea and your job becomes “I’m just here because I have to be” instead of “I’m here because I want to be.” Great ideas and entrepreneurs will figure it out … you just have to maintain a positive mindset, tell everyone you know what you’re doing and try to enroll anybody and everybody into your idea.  

Darrell S. Morris ’18 
Managing Partner/Owner, Well Done Cooking Classes, and Managing 
Principal, The Morris Capital Group

“When you have strategically planned and researched your concept, market and product; secured seed investment or saved up enough capital to live off of for the first year of your endeavor; and reached out to trusted advisors in your network to vet your plan, it’s time to leap. 

Chris Staffel ’17
Founder, Staffel Capital

When you spend every waking hour thinking about the company you must create, it’s time to leap. Great ideas are all-consuming. If you do your research, have a vision for your entity and understand the problem or need you’re going to solve, then get rolling. Plus, if you constantly think you can do it better, it’s likely time to jump in. Don’t hesitate; it’s time wasted. 

Bo Bothe ’05
Founder, ESG Reporting Partners, 
and President and Chief Executive Officer, BrandExtract

The trick to entrepreneurship in the 21st century is to never have to take “the leap.” Figure out how to de-risk and scope down the project to a smaller test, proving product market fit with a solid MVP. Many small and quick steps prevent you from taking the proverbial leap and putting considerable time and money at risk.  

Craig Ceccanti ’08 
President and COO at Softeq

Take the leap when you realize that the only path forward to reaching your potential is the one you cut yourself. The fear of failure from putting yourself beyond your comfort zone is smaller than the fear of not jumping and forever regretting your decision.    

Edgar Vargas-Castaneda ’15
VP of Growth Strategy and Business Optimization, TransPerfect

Before my entrepreneurial journey started, I was like every other aspiring entrepreneur asking, “How will I know when I’m ready?” I dreamed a lot about it and talked about it, but I didn’t have meaningful traction yet. Around that time, I was in my early 30s and on a flight from Houston to Seattle, and I got upgraded. The man next to me was in his 50s and the owner of a medical device business in Houston. He was flying to Seattle where he lived with his family. After an enjoyable discussion about his journey, I asked him “If you could give one piece of advice to an aspiring entrepreneur, what would it be?” He said: “Do it. Do it now. Take action. Don’t wait any longer. It takes time to do it, to figure it out, to build it, and to extract value from it. We have limited time. You must do it now.”

Don Porr ’97
CEO, Diamond Companies

Take the leap when you find an idea aligned with your values and mission, especially during tough times for you and your team. Ensure your idea consistently outperforms the next best alternatives. Trust your instincts but validate assumptions from both skeptics and supporters. Don’t overanalyze; be ready to improvise.

Rohan Bairat ’09
CEO, Sigga Technologies and Chairman of the Board/Co-Founder, 21Senses

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