It was 2007, and Steve Jobs had just announced the launch of Apple’s App Store to the world. After seeing and hearing him talk about this new technology, I was completely inspired. I had no idea what was ahead of me, but I knew what I wanted to do: make apps.
The only problem was that I didn’t even know how to code. But like most entrepreneurs, I was determined to overcome whatever knowledge or skill deficits I had in order to get my business off the ground. So I taught myself Objective-C and spent two years’ worth of nights and weekends teaching myself user experience design, user interface design for mobile, and the fundamentals of IOS development.
Fast-forward to the present, and I’m now happily immersed in the world of healthcare wearables, designing applications that are truly changing lives and impacting people in ways I never anticipated. But it took me a long time to get here.
Curiosity Makes Careers
Today, I run a company that has developed and launched more than 200 mobile apps, and I teach graphic design at Santa Monica College. I didn’t go to school to become a developer or a designer. In fact, my educational and professional background is actually in business and marketing. But I was able to learn the skills I needed to get to where I am now thanks to intellectual curiosity.
There’s never been a better time to be curious. The full scope of human knowledge is more accessible than ever; you can teach yourself almost anything you want to learn by simply having access to the internet.
You don’t need to go to an Ivy League school or complete a computer science program at Stanford to become a designer or programmer. Anyone who wants to become part of the technological wave has virtually unlimited resources at their fingertips, and most of them are free. Contrast that to college, which costs more than $21,000 every year (and almost $50,000 if it’s a private school). Massive open online courses, coding boot camps, and a plethora of YouTube videos and forums can give you all the skills you need to put together your own portfolio. Often, you can hack something together in the span of a single weekend.
It’s less easy, however, to take that portfolio and start a business. I know startup founders who have mortgaged their house to obtain enough capital to get their business off the ground. I spent the first five years of my career eating ramen noodle soup, drinking cheap beer, and making sacrifices that most people would rather not make. But I did it because I believed in what we were doing, and it paid off.
Failing Is Cheap
Apps aren’t cheap to build, and app developers aren’t cheap to employ. Mobile technology studios aren’t cheap to hire, either. But the cost of starting your own business, specifically your own software company, has never been lower than it is now. Thanks to major advances in the digital economy — especially cloud computing — you have the ability to build a thriving business for less than $10,000.
Not everybody is going to make it. But regardless of whether your startup wildly succeeds or crashes and burns, you come out on the other side as a better person. You’ve taken risks few are willing to take, and you’ve learned lessons few get the chance to learn. And that education is priceless.
Ask yourself, “What am I passionate about right now?” If the answer is something that you’ll be passionate about tomorrow, too, and even five years from now, it’s worth pursuing. The answer was yes for me and still is all these years later.
Real passion is really necessary, regardless of what anyone might tell you. Find people who share your dreams and complement the skills that you bring to the table, build a team with them, and find your niche.
If you haven’t started yet, remember: There’s never been a better time to be an entrepreneur.