1. The importance of a motivated team
This was the first thing I learned. The teams for the first two assignments were not chosen by the students, so I was assigned to a team of 10 random people. All the other members of my team did not really want to participate in this course. Some had signed up for curiosity, some did not have enough time anymore, and some were unreachable. I tried to engage them into discussion for the activities, but I was unsuccessful.
The deadline was near, so I finished the project by myself and submitted it. I learned from doing it, but I am sure that I could have learned much more if the other team members had participated. Luckily, my team for the startup project (the most important part of the course) is very active. Although our product is not finished (I will write about this in another post), I have learned much from these interactions.
2. International teams are a double-edged sword
My team for the startup project initially had 8 members from different countries: Brazil, China, Equador, India, Ireland, Latvia, Singapore, and United States. Having an international and multicultural team has many benefits, but it can be problematic too. The most evident issue is communication; it is hard for me, located in Brazil, to chat in real-time with someone from Asia. Moreover, being unable to talk face-to-face to other team members (except in Skype) makes the project more complicated. In order to overcome this communication problem, we are using many tools, such as Facebook Groups (chatting and messaging), Trello (task management) and Skype (real-time conversation).
However, this feature of our team has positive aspects too. Most notably, each of us have knowledge and experience that others do not have. We can learn much from others in this way. Also, this allows us to be at different parts of the world without big costs – which is especially helpful for an early-stage startup. It was a very interesting experience for me to work in such a group.
3. Startups can avoid costs with creativity and determination
As an early-stage startup without funding, it is fundamental to be able to cut costs. There are times when this is hard. But with creativity and determination, many costs can be avoided. For example, we needed a tool for task management and messaging. The most popular tool for this is probably Basecamp by 37signals, but it would cost us at least $20/month. Therefore, we decided that we should search for other tools. In the end, we found Trello, which is free and managed to solve our problem efficiently. The only cost that we had so far was the domain name, which costs less than $10/year.
4. Learning by doing is very efficient
The lectures by Prof. Eesley were superb and filled with relevant content. However, I feel that most of what I have learned did not come from there, but from the projects and assignments. Trying something by yourself is very rewarding and I feel that I learned much about entrepreneurship by trying to launch a startup. The best way of learning something is by trying to do it, even if you fail at first.