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The Columbia Organization of Rising Entrepreneurs (CORE) gives students resources to start their own businesses while connecting them with start-ups and young companies.
ou have to be better than the ‘back’ button, and better than a cat photo,” joked Alexis Ohanian, cofounder of social news website Reddit, sharing the challenges of a tech startup in this rapidly evolving digital age.
During a joint panel discussion on October 6 with Jared Hecht CC ’09 of messaging app GroupMe and Zach Sims, formerly CC ’12, of interactive coding platform Codecademy, Ohanian shared his experience with Reddit and his thoughts on the tech entrepreneurship sphere. Around 300 students attended, engaging via cyber space by voting for their favorite questions on the Columbia subreddit, a sub-forum on the Reddit website specifically pertaining to Columbia.
“If anyone claims to know what they’re doing, they’re lying, or they’re delusional, or they’re just not trying hard enough,” Ohanian declared. He urged Columbia students to push their boundaries and never be afraid of failure, something regularly accepted as part of the path to a successful entrepreneurial career.
CORE also aims to inform a larger community through its newly launched blog Curriculum, where writers post event recaps, interviews with entrepreneurs and weekly digests of news in the startup and business world.
These initiatives are intended to enable any Columbia student to become an entrepreneur. “It’s true that there’s been a focus on engineering, but Columbia College students have a track record of doing phenomenally well as entrepreneurs,” Zhang says, citing Sims and Hecht.
University resources and administrators have also played important roles in providing support and enabling CORE to make its dreams a reality. For instance, CORE is organizing the inaugural Startup Internship Program this year in collaboration with the Center for Career Education (CCE). This program matches and subsidizes students with startup internships in the city and aims to expose Columbia students to the work environment of young companies.
Beyond CCE, multiple branches in the university are supporting entrepreneurship with their unique resources. Columbia Entrepreneurship, a new organization under the President’s Office that is partnering with the University Office of Alumni Relations and Development, has been proactive in bringing in speakers and providing resources for startups in a more established, stable stage. Dean of Columbia College James J. Valentini has also voiced his support for entrepreneurship at Columbia on numerous occasions.
Nonetheless, CORE and its partners on campus still have a long way to go. Zhang notes that the largest barrier for Columbia students to become entrepreneurs is getting started because, according to Naganath, “Columbia students are reasonably risk-averse. We get where we are by doing everything right. But entrepreneurship is not about that. … One of the most valuable things CORE has done is to foster an entrepreneurial culture by exposing students who have entrepreneurial aspirations to a host of resources that include pitch opportunities, venture capitalist connections and influential speakers.”
CORE’s vision is that in the next five to ten years, more Columbia students will choose working at a startup as one of their top career choices. “We want people to say, ‘Columbia students – all they think about is investment banking, consulting, and startups,’” says Zhang. “We want to be one of those three things.”
Submitted by Qiuyun Tan CC ’16 and Jiaying Lim CC ’17; Edited by Mihika Barua CC ’15.
Qiuyun Tan CC ’16, an Economics and History Major, and Jiaying Lim CC ’17, a Political Science and Business major, both are members of the Executive Board of CORE and editors of CORE's entrepreneurship blog CORE Curriculum.
Mihika Barua CC ’15, from Mumbai, is a student web editor for the Columbia College website. A political science major, she is also editor of Spectrum, the blog of the Columbia Daily Spectator.
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