Dave Small

CSE E422
CISE Department
College of Engineering
University of Florida
PO Box 116120
Gainesville, FL 32611

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Do not start a startup in college. How to start a startup is just a subset of a bigger problem you're trying to solve: how to have a good life. And though starting a startup can be part of a good life for a lot of ambitious people, age 20 is not the optimal time to do it. Starting a startup is like a brutally fast depth-first search. Most people should still be searching breadth-first at 20.

You can do things in your early 20s that you can't do as well before or after, like plunge deeply into projects on a whim and travel super cheaply with no sense of a deadline. For unambitious people, this sort of thing is the dreaded "failure to launch," but for the ambitious ones it can be an incomparably valuable sort of exploration. If you start a startup at 20 and you're sufficiently successful, you'll never get to do it.

Mark Zuckerberg will never get to bum around a foreign country. He can do other things most people can't, like charter jets to fly him to foreign countries. But success has taken a lot of the serendipity out of his life. Facebook is running him as much as he's running Facebook. And while it can be very cool to be in the grip of a project you consider your life's work, there are advantages to serendipity too, especially early in life. Among other things it gives you more options to choose your life's work from.— Paul Graham Before the Startup