David B. Lerner

Dave Lerner, 3x Entrepreneur, Angel Investor, Host of Venture Studio
Entrepreneur, Angel Investor, Director of Columbia University Venture Lab, Blogger, Community Organizer, Golfer-in-Exile.

What Every Student Entrepreneur Needs to Know to Succeed (3) Know Something!

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Subjectmatterxpertise
This is part of my new Series on Student Entrepreneurship

In the previous posts in this Series we established the mindset and awareness required as well as the immersion you need to inititate in your local startup ecosystem in order to greatly increase your chances of success as an entrepreneur.

In this post we are focused-on developing subject-matter expertise. So let's elaborate on what I mean by this.

If you're an undergrad perhaps you've already declared your major/minor, etc. and if you're in grad school you're already something of a specialist. So there's no question you're developing some serious knowledge. But that's simply not enough and you should refuse to rest on the laurels academia might bestow on you. It means close to zilch in the business world and often leads to insane disconnects when the two worlds collide. This cultural divide only deepens over time and believe me, I've seen it over and over again. Don't ever let it get to this. With some extra effort you can "change the game" completely.

If the sort of businesses you're thinking about launching one day happens to spring from the subject matter you're studying in school, that's definitely a "leg-up" so to speak, but don't be lulled into complacency by thinking you've got the space figured out. I meet plenty of grad students who are deeply intimate with a field of research, but this simply doesn't come close to knowing what they need to know.

If you can become intimate with the following matters as well, you're really on your way:

  • Who are all the established companies and startups in this space (historically and now) and what happened to them and why?
  • What were and are their business models?
  • Who are all the successful entrepreneurs/teams in this space? How did they achieve what they achieved? Where are they now?
  • Who are the entrepreneurs & teams that failed and why?
  • What is the customer base in this space like? How is it segmented?
  • Who are the key investors in this space and what are they looking for?
  • Where is the industry moving? Where are the white spaces, the unsolved problems?
  • Who are the best writers/bloggers/journos giving the most unique insights into the space? 
  • What are the best events/gatherings/conferences in the field where everyone gathers?

I guarantee you that if you master all of the items above you will be absolutely unique among your peers. Amazingly very few people actually even know to do this in the first place but even if they do they usually don't pursue it for whatever reason.

If you are one of the few that develops this subject matter expertise you will have achieved fluency in a new language and everyone in the business world you encounter will immediately recognize this.

Now You'll have Subject Matter Expertise!

 

For Part 4 of Series Click Here

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Hi David, thanks for writing this insightful article. I'm a entrepreneur at Yale and it's been quite a journey getting our startup up to speed so far. Everyday there's just so much more to learn, and I appreciate you giving advice to students like us!

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