Hugh O’Donnell, an internationally recognized artist and a professor of painting at Boston University’s College of Fine Arts, began his talk at TEDxBU by quoting French poet and critic Charles Baudelaire, saying, “There exist only three respectable beings: the priest, the warrior, the poet. To know, to kill and to create.” O’Donnell then took those three professions and morphed them into one: the entrepreneur. He explained entrepreneurs need to know the market and have faith. They need to have faith in their vision, be able to create their ideas and then fight for them against all odds.
Last night, the Entrepreneurship Club at Boston University hosted “Students Startup America,” a TEDx event designed to inspire young entrepreneurs interested in topics ranging from technology and innovation to art and education. The event gathered speakers from various fields, including O’Donnell, Hakan Satiroglu, the founder of Xplana and CEO of Xplana Learning, Vinit Nijhawan, a serial entrepreneur and the managing director for the Office of Technology Development at Boston University, and Rich Miner, the co-founder at Android and a managing partner of Google Ventures.
The four described their individual journeys, all while highlighting similar traits and characteristics an entrepreneur must have in order to succeed. To be an entrepreneur, they said you needed to be flexible and willing to adapt, pivot and tweak your ideas. You needed to be inquisitive, innovative and optimistic, and possess an insatiable drive and determination.
“One great way to do a startup is by creating something you think is impossible,” said Miner, who also admitted that what’s most important is to “not know what’s not possible,” claiming, “If you think it’s achievable, go on and do it.”
Nijhawan said the number one quality needed to succeed as an entrepreneur was to “never give up.”
“When you’re doing a startup, everyone’s going to tell you why you won’t succeed,” Nijhawan said. “The only thing to do is be optimistic.”
What’s also key is knowing the market. When Satiroglu recognized the publishing industry was struggling to adapt from books to digital minds in the early 2000s, he saw an opportunity for innovation and latched onto it, creating Xplana. O’Donnell urged the crowd to go off into Boston and find out what the city needs, while Miner suggested students begin placing themselves in the kind of social environments where they can meet like-minded people, encouraging them to spend time in startup cafés, like The Venture Café, or begin attending pitch fests, networking events and business competitions.
“Boston has the building blocks you need to create something amazing,” Miner said.
After the speeches, and a short Q&A session, student startup companies, like ClubView, Campus Protein and The Tap Lab, gathered downstairs to demo their ideas. They were able to get further advice from the panelists, and were highly encouraged to keep on creating. After traveling from table to table, you could sense there was one important trait each of the students had, and that was passion, which each speaker said was crucial. Yet, O’Donnell made sure to make one more thing clear.
“If you ever hear someone say something is cool, don’t repeat it,” he said. “Instead, find a way to say it in your own words.”
Miner’s concluding words might need to be stolen, however, and those were, “Go create something amazing.”