Back in September of 2011, I quit my cushy internship with a large medical manufacturing company in Knoxville to work on contract with small businesses and startups. My first client was Uloop, and now, less than one year later, I’m the newest member of a six-man team based here in Chicago.
I moved up here and quickly found an apartment in Uptown, about 30 minutes on the train from the main office. Within a week, I fell in love with the city and the startup environment. I work a lot - 10 to 12 hours per day, 6+ days per week - but I love what I do. With two years of engineering experience under my belt, I can safely say I’ve never had a job that I loved as much as this one.
So what exactly do I do?
The same thing I’ve been doing…just more of it. Essentially, I develop software that helps me manage writers and editors at colleges across the country. In addition, I interview and hire new editors, answer lots of questions, and set big picture goals for Uloop’s newly created news organization that I lead. It’s hard to believe that I just started learning to program a year and a half ago, and now I am in charge of building revolutionary software to change the college news industry…wow.
Honestly, it sounds more glorious than it is - this is a startup after all. I get paid half what I would if I were an engineer at a big company, I work longer hours, and I had to move to a completely new place. Okay, the last one was kind of a plus. As much as I liked going to school in Knoxville, I knew from day one that I wouldn’t settle there long. I met some awesome people there, I loved the small-town feel, and the University of Tennessee provided me with a high-quality, low-cost education. Once again, nothing against Knoxville, but I’m 23, ambitious, and taking advantage of the big city opportunities.
Becoming successful as an entrepreneur is all about connections. I don’t care what industry you’re in, how experienced you are, or how great your business model is. You’ll never make it big without connections to the right people, customers, investors, and partners. Once again, nothing against Knoxville, but the number of connections available there are small. It’s a great place to start a niche business when you want a relatively small, easily penetrable market, but you don’t hear of notable web-based startups beginning there…there’s a reason for that.
Who knows? I love this city, and I’ve just started to get out and meet people. The most difficult thing is being far from my close friends and family. Regardless, I’m optimistic and hopeful for big things. If you ever want to come up to visit, let me know. I hope to visit Knoxville and Memphis to see old friends often, but if I don’t see you, I hope that we can keep up on social networks. Best of luck everybody, thanks for all your support and help so far!