5,000 Hours Later: 8 lessons from starting a company at Kellogg (Part 2 of 4)

My central focus while at Kellogg has been starting a company. What follows is the second part of an article I wrote for The Merger, Kellogg's school newspaper. It recaps, in brief, my experience at Kellogg.

5,000 Hours Later: 8 lessons from starting a company at Kellogg

Lesson 3: Resources act as social proof, helping you gain more resources

By Spring 2010, I had ditched the hyper-local news idea. I was firmly pursing the second idea of connecting professors to corporations seeking them. Viewed as a B2B media business, with professors creating quality content for corporations, and with the undergraduates already building a product, I was able to win $25,000 from a program the McCormick Foundation runs with Northwestern’s Media Management Center. A team from Mayberry-McKissack’s Entrepreneurial Selling class developed a sales pitch for the idea, while a group doing Marketing Research agreed to use their project to inform the product specification. I felt like my ambitions were sailing forward.

Lesson 4: When things don’t go right, persistence pays

The Media Management Center incubated the business over Summer 2010. As I sat in the attic of Fisk Hall, home of Northwestern’s Medill School of Journalism, I little anticipated the lower floors below would be full of young journalism students – mostly girls. They were draped across the corridors, on their cell phones, conducting interviews with Chicagoans, to write news stories for their class assignments.

Meanwhile, just like those journalism students, I too was making phone calls. I was calling on alumni of Northwestern’s engineering and science programs. I was trying, and failing, to set up meetings with anyone who might be a potential customer – any corporation that might seek to hire professors for consulting. On one particular day, I remember making thirty-three phone calls – and either not getting through or being received coldly by the other party. I was despondent. It was a low point. However, the thirty-third call that day, at 9:15pm, to an R&D Director at a medical device company became a turning point.