While Elana Fine is in London facilitating a workshop during the Global Consortium of Entrepreneurship Centers Conference (GCEC 2014), Entrepreneurs in Residence Jason Shrensky and Harry Geller served as guest lecturers during the Fearless Founders Hatch class this past Monday. The two offered valuable advice for the Fearless Founders Hatch cohort, touching on their own personal experiences as entrepreneurs. Keep reading for an overview of the two-part lecture from this week’s class.
Jason began his lecture by giving students a bit of a wake up call. He discussed how people often glamorize the idea of starting a company after observing the success of a few notable entrepreneurs that made it big very quickly. But in reality, being an entrepreneur is very difficult.
Everyone’s got a plan until they get punched in the face.
– Mike Tyson
Jason went on to discuss the struggle between integrity and winning. He warned students that people — including investors, customers and co-founders — are bombarded with messaging that values winning over integrity. Knowing this, it is important for entrepreneurs to protect themselves by ensuring that there are always proper contracts in place and that they completely understand what they mean.
Repeat after me, “I do not need to be a lawyer to read and understand a contract. I understand English. Contracts are written in English.”
– Jason Shrensky
In the end, the biggest takeaway from Jason’s lecture was that winning is about right now and integrity will protect entrepreneurs in the long-term.
Whatever business you’re working on right now will not be your last business. This is the time to start building a reputation of integrity for yourself. You’ve got to play the long game.
– Jason Shrensky
Harry followed up Jason’s lecture by sharing his experience as an entrepreneur and provided valuable life-lessons to the Fearless Founders.Unlike the environment when he launched his first business, Harry told students that now is a great time to start a business. Given the technology available today, barriers to entry are almost non-existent and the opportunity for productivity is high. To illustrate this, Harry shared a story about his son Jackson Geller, who took after his father and became an entrepreneur at an early age. After identifying a problem with golf bags while on the course one day, Jackson came up with the idea to make “feet” that would make golf bags more sturdy. With only $500, Jackson was able to start a business within three days by finding a manufacturer online and registering a domain name. Harry used this example to teach the Fearless Founders to solve problems in their everyday lives and to discover if there are people willing to buy what they’re selling. Harry also encouraged students to have faith in the idea, even if there is competition.
Don’t be afraid of competing with big companies. Do something unique to separate yourself from the competition. Steve Jobs didn’t invent the cell phone, just a better way to do it.
– Harry Geller
By the end of the class, students were buzzing with questions and luckily, our guest speakers stuck around to have some one-on-one conversations.
Special thanks to Jason and Harry for for sharing their insights with the Fearless Founders Hatch cohort! If you’re interested in speaking to an Entrepreneur in Residence about your business idea, attend a Pitch Dingman session, held every Friday 11 a.m. to 1 p.m. in 2518 Van Munching Hall.
Jason Shrensky joined the Dingman Center team as an Angel in Residence in 2011. Originally a full-time attorney, Jason went on to become an entrepreneur and eventually an angel investor. He is currently a member of the Dingman Center Angels investor network.
Harry Geller is an alumnus of the University of Maryland and long-time entrepreneur having started eight companies. When he isn’t advising students at the Dingman Center, he spends his time working on two startups.