Dropping out

General Discussion for SMART Scholarship Recipients

Dropping out

Postby Arbiter » Wed Oct 24, 2018 4:13 pm

Looking for general opinions/feedback.

I'm part of a startup that made it to the final round of YC Combinator (the best venture capitalist firm).
If we get make it through the next round, we're in and we get funded over 100k for 4 months to launch our company.

Obviously SMART isn't going to be okay with me leaving school for a semester to launch the company.
A) Would you leave school for a semester, knowing that you will lose the scholarship, to take this opportunity?
B) Is there a way to get a semester off from school and retain the scholarship (sick leave, etc)?

Thanks!
Arbiter
 

Re: Dropping out

Postby anonnynonny » Wed Oct 24, 2018 5:46 pm

I would:

(1) Request for a leave of absence
(2) When they deny the request, tell them to go kick rocks
(3) Make my startup great
(4) Life the rest of my life not wondering "what if"?
anonnynonny
 

Re: Dropping out

Postby anonnynonny » Wed Oct 24, 2018 5:47 pm

*Live
anonnynonny
 

Re: Dropping out

Postby MyTwoCents » Thu Oct 25, 2018 8:09 am

Arbiter wrote:Looking for general opinions/feedback.

I'm part of a startup that made it to the final round of YC Combinator (the best venture capitalist firm).
If we get make it through the next round, we're in and we get funded over 100k for 4 months to launch our company.

Obviously SMART isn't going to be okay with me leaving school for a semester to launch the company.
A) Would you leave school for a semester, knowing that you will lose the scholarship, to take this opportunity?
B) Is there a way to get a semester off from school and retain the scholarship (sick leave, etc)?

Thanks!


A) If it were me, I would not. I'm not a risk taker, so I try to only make very calculated choices that barely meet the definition of a risk. This seems like it is a little too high risk, high reward for my threshold. Of course, it depends on how much SMART has already paid out on your behalf and how much they are committed to funding. If you didn't have SMART by choosing to delay your graduation to pursue this, you are investing your time, which has value, the opportunity cost of finish school on time and beginning a salaried position sooner. Weighed against the potential gain, for a college student with a solid startup idea, you might not have "much to lose" by trying. If SMART has already expended money on your behalf, you have to add that into your consideration of the opportunity cost because you will need to pay it back. Additionally, you should factor in the money you would get from SMART if you stayed in the program. This is to say depending on your startup's prospects, pretty quickly the value of staying in SMART might outweigh what you stand to gain from pursuing the startup. That being said, it is a lot easier to take risks like this while you are young because there is time to recover, so even if you do the math and find out that the startup might not be the most financially beneficial option, but still want to pursue it because it is interesting and exciting, then go for it! However, if it were me, I would hedge my bets and try to pursue it without giving up the scholarship.

B) Couple avenues I can think of that do not involved giving up SMART:
You could take a leave of absence pending SMART's approval. You would not receiving any funds from SMART (e.g. your stipend) while on leave of absence, but your commitment would not increase and the scholarship would be there when you return. You are limited to the amount of leave of absence. you can take over the course of your award, and SMART needs to approve it. Be prepared to justify how the time you spend working on your startup will provide value to the government when you are an employee (technical experience, insight for administrating SBIRs, etc.)

You might be able to talk with your school or a professor you know about earning some kind of credit for your work with the startup (directed study, capstone, thesis credits, self-designed minor etc.). My school can do something like this through the business department and a slightly different program through the engineering department. You may be able to remain a full time student by relying on this credit, or you may need to take 1-2 classes to supplement it, but either way it would give you time to pursue the startup, without needing approval from SMART, assuming it does not effect your graduation date.

You could take a reduced course load and pursue the startup part time. You could drop down to the full-time minimum credit load and pursue the startup in your spare time. You might need to give up some of the potential value of the startup to your partners who do pursue it full-time. However, on the flip side, if it is not successful, you will have lost a lot less than them.

C) Something else to factor into your decision. 4 months is not very long to launch a company. If you are successful over this period, it is going to take a lot of additional time to fully establish the business. The more time you invest, the harder it is going to feel to step back a little to finish your degree. Even though this will give you great experience, a degree holds a lot of power in that little piece of paper, so you still will want to get it eventually. In my opinion, anything you can do to make additional progress from now, would be a major value down the line.
MyTwoCents
 


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