I think that I can speak for all eight of Reese News Lab’s summer startup interns when I say that we were constantly confronted with truths in the first week of our summer project: the exhilarating/terrifying/sobering truths of being an entrepreneur.
Our first week at Reese News Lab was a continuous exercise in brain-expansion as we have tried to soak up every bit of the inundating range of concepts and emotions that come with entrepreneurial thinking. It’s astounding what we covered in five days — and that’s only the tip of our 81-day iceberg. Hence this lurking sense that we’ve only scratched the surface — that we can’t even begin to know the mass of information, challenges and growth that awaits us in the remaining 11 weeks.
It actually does feel like we’re heading for an enormous iceberg … and based on the amount of uncertainty we’re approaching it with, we may as well be in a sailboat. We have two challenges to tackle this summer. Two products to create. Two pitches to deliver. We don’t know now what we’re doing or how to begin or WHAT EVER WE WILL DO when we reach the inevitable trough of sorrow. The amount of figuring-out that we have ahead is overwhelming. But anxiety aside, there is a palpable excitement at getting to dive into the challenges we have the task of tinkering with. And get this — we have actual clients this summer. Which means double the anxiety and double the excitement.
And so we begin a summer of solving: equipped with a sailboat of uncertainty, vaguely naive excitement, and the entrepreneurial truths we have gleaned from a week of initial clamor as we were thrown into this beautifully messy startup process. Here are the most prominent truths that came up again and again that week:
Truth #1: You’ve got to be a little crazy to be an entrepreneur
We’ve heard this sentiment echoed in some way, shape, or form from a variety of experienced entrepreneurs themselves. The amount of work that goes into innovating and executing something that is totally your own is incomprehensible. Passion is the power player here. You have to be sure that you would rather do nothing else with your life than pour it into your idea. Even when the answer is “no,” you know beyond a shadow of a doubt that you would continue to pursue your cause with passion — and the kind of passion that is ready and able to withstand a lot of “nos.”
Truth #2: You can’t ignore the money
At Reese, we explore three main components of every idea: Desirability, Feasibility, and Viability. Viability is always the fun-sucker. As much as I wish I could live in the fairytale land of startups where you never have to worry about financial sustainability, the money issue simply must be confronted. Who is going to pay for this? Bottom line: Find a way to answer this question, or even the most Titanic ideas are sure to go under (too many iceberg metaphors yet?). Viability is the true test of good ideas.
Truth #3: Trusting your team is vital to success
It is important to have a solid relational foundation with your team. Without a team that values trust, accountability and healthy conflict, the road to accomplishing a common goal will be rocky if not impossible. Great ideas do not make a startup successful; great people do. The eight of us walked into the lab at the beginning of the week not even knowing each other’s names. Through intense brainstorming sessions, we have already begun to improve on how we respond to each other’s ideas, listen to each other, and value each other’s feedback. It has been a promising evolution that I am excited to see continue throughout the summer. I know that no time will be wasted in continuing to grow and invest in our relationships, for it will only help us in our development of more desirable, feasible and viable products.
So here’s to a successful first week of growing relationships and expanding entrepreneurial minds … and to the many truths to come and icebergs to overcome.
Rachael Meleney is a senior studying journalism and entrepreneurship at UNC Chapel Hill. She is currently working on Reese News Lab’s summer startup team. You can follower her Twitter at @rachael_mel.
Reese News Lab is an experimental news and research project based at the School of Journalism and Mass Communication at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill. The lab was established in 2010 with a gift from the estate of journalism school alum Reese Felts. We develop and test new ideas for the media industry. Undergraduate and graduate students learn about the state of the news industry, pitch product ideas, conduct user testing and develop prototypes. The staff of undergraduate and graduate students are required to document their work throughout their projects, compiling their research, results and recommendations on the viability of their product ideas.