Perhaps The Startups Aren’t Failing

According to Harvard’s Shikhar Ghoush, approximately 75% of startups fail. And according to Statistic Brain’s study in 2014, about 63% of information related startups fail. At Stanford, the majority of startups are app-related. From Chatous to Snapchat, apps dominate the Silicon Valley lifestyle and seem to herald the future. While it seems to be a known fact that we at Stanford live in a technology-filled world, little time is spent considering the implications. An environment filled with people striving for success creates a microcosm of fast-paced evolution. At Stanford, it’s all too easy for many of us to ignore external startups, leading to self-inflicted isolation and a less connected community.

“Hi there, can I just have a second of your time for a question? Have you heard of this company?” How frequently do we people approach us to be questioned? How often do we discard the questioners quickly and stroll away to grab a coffee? How often do we realize the implications of what we have just done?

Capitalism is beautiful. While this may seem like a jump, there is no better example of a capitalistic society than Stanford. Because of the challenging nature of our environment, startup success may even be slimmer on our campus. The difficulty in connecting with students at Stanford, for whom the thrill of a new startup has long since faded, forces potential companies to go big or go home.

Many upperclassmen are familiar with the attempts of small startup tech companies who infiltrate the campus with t-shirts, deals, and events. While we do live busy lives, should we abuse that as an excuse to ignore attempts by apps to communicate with us?

Just as we owe it to society to participate in community service, perhaps we have an ethical obligation to work with businesses. Even if not for our own benefit, we have a responsibility to participate in the culture that drives the school we call home.

One of these startups, with perhaps the most potential of any to pass through Stanford, is Campus Quad. The app was designed to replace the long-maligned list serves. Instead of emailing an event, the app offers an Instagram-like scrolling feature that presents easy-to-view events, from CDC meetups, to basketball games, to Starbucks coupons.
The CEO and founder of Campus Quad, Frances Cairns, was heavily involved at Apple in the creation of Itunes University as well as other education initiatives at multiple schools. She chose Stanford for the roll-out of an app aspiring for world-wide influence because “it solves a real communication problem [present at Stanford] and it gave the university a way to innovate and drive student engagement at the same time. It was a win-win for both.”

It’s true. If you haven’t noticed, Stanford’s clubs, departments and athletics often struggle to attract student participation at events. Kurt Svoboda, the Senior Assistant Athletic Director at Stanford, addressed these issues stating, “increased attendance at games is certainly a goal.” He knows that “many opportunities vie for limited free hours of our students’ and community members.” Staff at the bookstore are constantly brainstorming methods of communicating coupons, Stanford Women in Business uses email blasts to share information about the latest business panel and Bing Performance Hall has difficulties filling shows that are prematurely “sold out” by students who bail. The bottom line is that all organizations on and off campus want your time. But equally importantly, they want to help you efficiently allocate your time.

Campus Quad allows students to find opportunities on campus. Frances Cairns, CEO, believes “students will make this their platform to share their voices and be heard.”

Many students also don’t realize the uniqueness of this characteristic to Stanford. A student at Harvard University, Lena Fulton, speaking to the influence of technology, stated, “Technology is a force, albeit not a huge one, on campus.” She believes people who are “breaking into technology” are “more the exception.” In her opinion, “the difference between Stanford and Harvard is that I feel like, in general, people at Stanford are more entrepreneurially-minded than people at Harvard.” While generalizations do not represent the entire campus, it is certainly clear that Stanford is distinctive in its focus on startups and technology, which is supplemented with the resources of Silicon Valley in our backyard.

There are a lot of lessons to learn from these facts. Realize all the thousands of opportunities you have as a Stanford student, but remain humble. Give your attention to a multitude of projects but respect and learn about all the small things because, one day, it may end up being the biggest. No matter how annoying it may be, help one another build things, not just school projects but companies too. As we have heard countless times, the people at this school are your biggest resource.
Next time, instead of the blank, “I don’t have time,” try “I’m busy, but I’ll take a second.” Maybe even download Campus Quad and see what it’s about. Perhaps the investment of a few of your seconds will end up helping you spend a few of your years at Stanford more wisely.

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