Business plan competitions are hard, entrepreneurship is harder
You must be fanatically devoted to your startup. "I thought that after graduation, being able to focus full-time on the business, it was going to get easier," says BlackLocus's Rodrigo Carvalho. "No! It just gets harder from there."
Pitching a group of investors gets easier, Seet says, because you're used to working a big room. And there are some pretty great highs. Andrew Smith, CEO of AT Dynamics, remembers when his business went from having sold six models to logging a 3,500 order. "That was a fun day for me," he recalls. "The engineers went nuts, but I had fun."
Still, "for every amazing moment, there's a moment of 'Oh God, we're all gonna die,'" Seet says. "It takes a lot of chutzpah to continue and still be able to sleep at night and maintain the relationships that are technically more important than that big exit."
Choose your investors like you'd choose your spouse
Investing partners come in all shapes and sizes. Not all are created equal. "Just be very careful who you take money from," Seet says. "It's a relationship just like marriage." You should be in the same boat to either success or failure. "They need to be standing by your side," he says, "and that relationship doesn't happen with every investor."
Carvalho says he met two VCs at Rice who were pivotal to his company's success. "It's not just the money that you're getting," he says. "You should be looking for investors that can help you."
Some investors act like helicopter parents, while others allow more independence. "If you can find the angels that have built companies," Smith says, "and understand the volatility and the roller coaster [of entrepreneurship], those are phenomenal people to team up with."