Student Software Entrepreneurism Opportunities: An Op-Ed View!
While a Computer Science graduate student and lecturer at McMaster University I’ve often had graduating students ask me if I know if any “good jobs” are available. Students are having difficulty finding jobs that they find fulfilling intellectually, that offer opportunities for advancement, and that make them feel a sense of purpose by doing something important to them.
I genuinely believe that even though the opportunities presented to students may seem bleak, the ability for students to create their own opportunity through software-based startups has never been better.
I personally believe more McMaster students should consider creating their own software startups as a viable career path.
The success of software startups run by students and recent graduates should provide encouragement. One such example is Kik Interactive, developers of the Kik Messenger cross-platform instant messenger app for iOS, Android and WP7. CEO Ted Livingston was a Mechatronics student at the University of Waterloo in 2009 when he headed up the creation of what would ultimately become Kik. The service became a viral success story, going from zero to one million users in 15 days. By selling some of his personal share in Kik, at the age of just 23, Ted was able to generously donate one million dollars to Waterloo’s residence-based startup incubator VeloCity.
The growth of smartphone and tablet mobile devices and the accompanying increase in app revenue represents an unprecedented opportunity for software startups to launch products built locally to a global market. Smartphone shipments are expected to rise from 249.9 million in 2010 to 506 million units in 2014 according to iSuppli Corp., shipments of tablet computers are expected to grow from 19.5 million units in 2010 to 208 million units in 2014 according to Gartner Inc. media analysis, and Forrester Reports projects that mobile app revenues will grow 1627% from 2.2 billion USD in 2010 to 38 billion USD in 2015.
Many of the tasks required of a startup are now either completely automated or made far easier through the usage of cloud-based services. For example publishing platforms like WordPress for creating websites, MailChimp for managing mailing lists, FreshBooks for billing and accounting, TribeHR for having an HR system, SurveyMonkey for surveys and feedback, Pivotal Tracker for project tracking, Github for source control, and Skype for conferencing. As such it has never been easier to launch a startup with a small team and little or no funding, which is particularly important for student-run startups.
Hamilton itself is beginning to see a surge in software related startups, it’s even been described as “the next new Canadian tech startup hotspot” by Mark Elliot at Venture Accelerator Partners Inc.. I know that some students and recent graduates at McMaster are doing software-based startups. Computer Science students Gavin Schulz and Zaahir Moolla have developed a service called MealDeck which allows restaurants to easily create a cross-platform mobile website. A recent graduate of the MBA program, Lorne Lantz, founded Groupstore, a service which allows people to sell their event as a group online. I feel these efforts should be recognized and applauded, but I think more startups can come from McMaster. McMaster is a world class institution, I believe our students and graduates are capable of creating world class software startups.
If you’re a student that is interested in becoming involved in your own software startup, I would suggest becoming involved in the software startup community in Hamiltonand in Canada. Read Canadian tech news websites like TechVibes and blogs like StartupNorth. Attend and participate in local DemoCamp, Startup Drinks and Startup Weekend events. Once you’ve gathered a feel for things, you can make an informed decision about how to either become involved in a startup or start your own. While the intellectual challenges of a startup can be incredibly satisfying, I think the greatest thing is that you can work on a problem that you are passionate about and feel a sense of purpose in providing a solution, potentially for the whole world. I’d love to see more McMaster students doing a software startup, taking up the challenges, providing the solutions and feeling that sense of purpose.
This piece is a re:print of the original article to be found here, on the SoftwareHamilton.com site and I again, wanted to acknowledge the community leadership of Kevin Browne….a PhD candidate student at McMaster who has had the vision and passion to drive us to where we all are now! His leadership is passionate – and I and many many others will be just behind him, all of us trying to help foster a great new ambition for our community – one of start-ups and a passion for business!
So come along, won’t you? He will need help along the way and all you need to do is to offer up the willingness to aid our community to grow….see you all at our next start-up community building event on October 13th – StartUpDrinks Hamilton!Google