This is a guest post from Joanne Brady, founder of theBookPond.com, an online resource for students to buy and sell used textbooks.
“When I decided to set up a textbook website for university students with no budget and few programming skills, my first instinct was to look at theBookPond.com as a venture I could share with someone who would fill the skills gap. After much touting around, I found an enterprising computer engineering student based in Glasgow. We set up the site together in 2009 and have worked together ever since, with him doing the technical and design aspects of the site, and myself focussing on marketing and promotion. On the whole, it works.
Much like Mark Zuckerberg did for Facebook (though I’m not comparing us to that social media giant), setting up a venture whilst at university can be a good option. Your time at university may be the only point in your life that you will be surrounded by so many highly intelligent, free-thinking, skilled, and enthusiastic people.
Universities are full of young people who have skills in a wide range of disciplines, from computer programming, to marketing, foreign languages, music performance, business planning, and engineering. The problem is channelling these resources into something solid.
If you have a project in mind, have a think as to whether a student-led venture would be feasible. Start touting around for possible partners. Use your current networks, both online and off. You can place an advert on the relevant department noticeboard asking for anyone with the required skills to get in touch. Also check out local business website forums for local graduates too.
Take care with your intellectual property. Keep your original and brilliant idea under wraps, especially if you don’t have the practical skills to make it a reality by yourself. It’s easy for someone with skills to steal a good idea from someone else and get a head start on a rival project. For anyone who has seen the Facebook film ‘The Social Network’, this potential problem is all too apparent – it wasn’t the people with the brilliant idea who ended up millionaires – it was the guy with the coding skills.
From a legal perspective, if the idea has potential to make millions, you should seek advice on patenting the idea before you start seeking people to help make it happen. You should also draft up a non-disclosure agreement that all interested parties need to sign before you tell them the details of your plan. However, if it’s just something that you have an instinct about and have the inclination to take a gamble, then recruiting someone from your university could be a good option.