5 Startup Lessons from a Student Entrepreneur

Aspiring founders of any age can learn a lot from Rahul Goel. How the millennial behind PheedLoop got his start

 
Written by Murad Hemmadi

In case passing the final year of aerospace engineering wasn’t pressure enough, Rahul Goel has a job. When he’s not in class, the University of Toronto undergraduate is also co-founder ofPheedLoop, an event engagement tool.

PheedLoop started as a way for conference speakers to incentivize feedback from their audience. Attendees receive access to slides and contact info when they leave their thoughts in the app. But Goel soon realized that conference talks were just a small part of a broader market that needed someone to serve it. “We started it as a speaker feedback tool, and realized we could have a much larger impact if we shift our business to the entire conference, not just speakers,” he explains. Although there were plenty of event management apps, few received the kind of engagement that organizers seek.

So PheedLoop has pivoted to focus on the entire event engagement space. In the process, Goel has learned some valuable lessons that aspiring entrepreneurs at any age should seek to emulate.

Just start

The PheedLoop experience has taught Goel the value of simply taking a chance. “Just start,” he says. “Don’t waste too much time trying to iron out your idea or anything. Just put it out there and get going and you never know where it might go.”

Goel says it’s a particularly good time to be a young entrepreneur today. “Just based on observation it seems evident to me that younger people definitely don’t fear risk as much,” he says. “We feel confident more and more that as young people we have the ability to make significant change in the world.”

That fearless attitude may be a luxury of youth, but Goel’s advice holds true for entrepreneurs of every age.

It’s about attitude

There isn’t too much overlap between aerospace engineering and entrepreneurship, admits Goel. But while the concrete skills required to succeed in each profession are substantially different, the mindset required is not. “The discipline you gain from studying something that rigorous, it’s definitely helped me not fear hard work,” he says. “And being an entrepreneur is definitely a lot of hard work.”

Learn new things

Goel didn’t have any of the necessary technical skills when he began working on PheedLoop. “I taught myself to code and launch something which I never imagined anyone would use,” he says.

That willingness to develop new capabilities has remained strong now that the service is up, running, and attracting customers. “We’ve constantly been propelled by the desire to constantly learn more technical skills,” Goel says. “As engineers that might be expected, and it’s just such a thrill to build something from scratch without even knowing where to start.”

Admit your shortcomings

After going through UofT’s Entrepreneurship Hatchery startup accelerator and then moving the company to Ryerson University’s Digital Media Zone, PheedLoop started to look for capital. Goel admits his youthful inexperience has posed some challenges. “In our first couple of investment meetings, we literally had no idea what we were doing,” he says. “We read a lot online, talked to people, but it’s just not the same. You go in and get asked hard questions that you didn’t prepare for or don’t know the answers to, and you make up answers. It’s just a process that you learn from”

But the people in those investment meetings didn’t dismiss PheedLoop out of hand simply because the team of young. “Most of the people that we talk to [are] just super-nice, and they’re actually there to help you and watch you grow,” Goel says. “They realize you’re coming from a place where you might not have a ton of experience. They give you very valuable feedback.”

Take it with you

The success of PheedLoop to this point has shown Goel that there’s a viable life in entrepreneurship. Starting a business as a student taught him it was possible to “lay a groundwork for us as we graduate to maybe not look for jobs put potentially create a job of our own,” he says.“And potentially [to] get other people involved.”

Goel will always be passionate about event management. “But it’s not something I want to do for the next 10–15 years of my life,” he admits. Instead, he’d like to make a dent on the aerospace industry. “A lot of the things I’m developing as a person and as an entrepreneur will help me in the aerospace industry a couple of years down the road.”

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Originally appeared on PROFITguide.com

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