Nice article by Behance Network founder Scott Belsky of Harvard Business School. Its not often that we get first hand accounts from entrepreneurs like this article in the Harbus (the student weekly at Harvard Business School). There is a lot to learn from active campus entrepreneurs like Belsky. Here are some selections from his piece:
Soon after I got accepted to HBS, I left a job at Goldman Sachs with the intention to travel, write, and bask in idea-generation for a few months prior to moving to Boston. Instead, I became obsessed with one idea in particular and inadvertently started a business prior to starting business school. The two years that followed were a roller-coaster of challenges in building a start-up team, developing, launching, and marketing a series of products…and showing up to class on time.
“Behance” was founded after about 100 interviews I conducted with creative teams and individuals – people in large agencies/companies, small design firms, and talented freelancers. I was fascinated by the inefficiencies in the marketplace, notably how Creatives build professional networks and how companies find and hire creative talent. I realized that the creative community was extremely disorganized and inefficient. The problems existed both on a micro-level (low personal productivity and brainstorms were often a waste of time), and a macro-level (people relied on old rolodexes or MySpace pages, and there was no “professional” online platform for Creatives).
The summer before HBS was spent developing an outline of a company that would boost productivity and help organize the creative community. The first few hundred dollars were spent on the trademark “Make Ideas Happen,” and then it started: I was scheduling meetings, and telling enough people about the concept that I suddenly felt accountable! With a small round of funding from friends and family, I hired a Chief of Design to focus full-time on developing the business, just three weeks before I packed my bags for Boston.
Despite what they say about needing a balance of X/Y classes, you can maneuver an X (or Y)-only schedule through the use of evening seminars and the sacred “field studies.”
“Field Studies” are not only great for their flexibility, but also for the “discounted consulting” you can garner for your start-up business from the world’s leading experts on the HBS faculty. Yes, I did the math, and tuition is still cheaper than the amount Behance would have to pay for the guidance I received.
The relevant work I did with Professors and fellow students helped me justify my time in Boston to my team at Behance. It was always difficult to be away from the team, but they recognized the value-add from my time at HBS.
I spent about two days per week in Boston, and the remainder of my time in New York with my team (now eight people). My classes during EC year were all highly relevant, and I believe that my days in Boston provided the big-picture “consider your business differently” time that every entrepreneur needs but seldom takes. I was able to secure a Rock Fellowship grant. I also met with many of my classmates that were interested in the digital media space, and they have taught me much and I’ve been able to leverage some of the lessons I learned the hard way.
My “starting salary” coming out of HBS will be a negative number. But Behance is growing quickly, and we now have a number of opportunities to get funding and/or partnerships with some established companies that can provide some security going forward. I also love the team we’ve built and the substance of the daily grind.