From Student to Startup Founder: Five Tips to Get There

Jessica Carlson
June 3, 2013

In a down economy – or even in a booming market – it seems unthinkable for a twenty-something to occupy a position in the C-suite. But, that's exactly what Michael Jacobs and Hector Rosales have achieved as the CEO and CFO, respectively, of a new iOS app startup called SociaLink.

Michael Jacobs and Hector Rosales work on their app, SociaLink, on the University of Arizona campus while wearing the colors.

Michael Jacobs (left) and Hector Rosales (right) work on SociaLink on the University of Arizona campus while both sporting the colors. (Photo Credit: Michael Jacobs)

Between a pre-session class, the daily responsibilities of running SociaLink and other projects he's constantly taking on, Jacobs answered questions about his unequivocal drive and his big plans for the future. 

It all started his freshman year, which is when he found his entrepreneurial passion. Over the next couple years, Jacobs began a few businesses, but ultimately felt like they weren't successful. Feeling discouraged and unsure about pursuing other ideas, he was at a crossroads: Forgo his entrepreneurial spirit for something safer or keep taking risks.

Jacobs found his greatest ally in the fight to continue down the entrepreneurial path. He found support, inspiration and help from other business owners and professionals at the many networking events he attended. He met many inspiring and helpful people, but was running into a major problem. After that first motivating conversation and exchange of a business card, Jacobs had trouble building a sustainable, long-term network via LinkedIn, Twitter and the like because the people he had met at these events often were very hard to find online. 

He wondered if he could connect with these professionals and mentors instantaneously on the social network of his choosing without having to worry about hanging on to business cards and tracking them down much later.

An idea formed: How about an application that allows users to connect quickly, instantly and seamlessly? About a week later, Jacobs pitched the idea to his classmate, Hector Rosales. Rosales was just as excited and passionate about it, and the two decided to work together.

After thoroughly thinking it through, researching all the pieces, hiring a team of developers and overseeing the application's development from overseas, SociaLink was born. The app has simplified the way people network and, for the UA students who've meet its creators or been a part of the app's beta test, it's also been an inspiration, demonstrating that hard work and tenacity lead to success. 

UA alumnus and current student in Entrepreneur magazine.

Flip through this month's issue of Entrepreneur magazine and you'll see these two Wildcats featured for their college startup. (Photo Credit: Michael Jacobs)

Fresh off a feature in the June issue of Entrepreneur magazine, Jacobs reveals that the plans for SociaLink are to continue to expand the user base and to launch the app on the Android platform. But, as he points out, "The best reward is seeing your idea become real, see it being used and seeing the success. People are using a product that was just an idea six months ago." 

How can you do the same? SociaLink's CEO offers five pieces of advice:

1. Your mentality and attitude will be your biggest roadblocks or your greatest assets. Jacobs emphasizes that you need to have the correct mindset – you can't be too confident, but you also need to believe in yourself and your capabilities. "If you're providing value, helping others through your idea and realizing that you have to be humble, you get a momentum going," he advises.

2. Be prepared to learn, and fast. "You learn so much faster and learn so many more things than you can ever comprehend in a short period of time." He goes on to explain that the University of Arizona's Eller College of Management teaches the mentality of entrepreneurship and the experience of starting his own business brought even more clarity and value to the things he's learned in class. 

3. There's no such thing as failure. "When you fail, you only learned the way not to do it. If you look at SociaLink, there's success, but a lot of failures got us there. Start taking action – figure out the budget, do the research," advises Jacobs. "Once you do that, you realize that it has the potential to be successful. That first step is the hardest."

4. If you know you want to forge your own path, foster your entrepreneurial spirit. Some of us hope to be entrepreneurs, but we haven't quite nailed down our big idea yet. For those people, Jacobs offers a multitude of resources, including a blog dedicated to providing insightful interviews with other entrepreneurs, an archive of vlogs documenting his experience and thoughts as well as a campaign to help one million people chase their dreams.

5. Learn from someone who's been there. Jacobs expressed that he benefited greatly from all the networking he did and gained immense value from the expertise and insight provided by many professors, as he states that Professor Jane Robbins helped him become who he is today. But, as important as it is to learn from fellow entrepreneurs and business-minded individuals, there's an incredible advantage to learning from one who's at your same stage in life. That's where Jacobs and Rosales come in. Providing students and recent alumni just like them with the opportunity to learn what it takes to run a business as a student or young professional, they're currently seeking interns and accepting applications until June 15.


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