The Story of a Student Entrepreneur

Impact Features talks to Mitchell Fasanya, a UoN student who has an unconventional pastime: running two businesses…

“The average response when people discover I have set up and run multiple companies before the legal drinking age is “wow, that’s amazing”. This normally precedes the questions about what I do. However, the more important questions are how and why. I am sure a number of people reading this have or will have a business idea, a few of you may have turned those ideas into reality and to you I say congratulations! It is a daunting task starting from scratch with no guarantee of success, which brings me to my first question… Why? If your answer is ‘money’ then you are making success a whole lot harder. As Elon Musk said, “great companies are built on great products” – not a desire for easy money.

“The reason for setting up my first company came down to two things: my love for developing great software and a realisation of a gap in the market. This led to the creation of JsonWhois, a technical product, offering developers and marketing agencies access to domain name information in an easy to use format. When I created the software I never expected it to blow up the way it did; it was initially an experiment for myself and just a bit of fun. This bit of fun soon led to over 19 million monthly requests and serving clients from across the globe. Although it felt so quick, looking back on the events that led to that moment it is clear how much actually went into that product. It took just two weeks to develop the software, but over five years had gone into my education. If my end goal had been money it would have been almost impossible to grind through such a long learning process, especially alongside my school studies.

“The reason for setting up my first company came down to two things: my love for developing great software and a realisation of a gap in the market”

“Since then I have founded another company, Koala Analytics, and also joined a company, FanBytes, with two other student entrepreneurs from Warwick and Imperial Universities. These companies have offered me a wide range of experiences, including deals with Disney, GoPro, Nickelodeon and Ronaldinho. It always leads to interesting conversations when you leave for a weekend and come back with a Segway given to you by a legendary footballer.

“As a student entrepreneur the entire university experience is drastically different from my peers. I often find myself leaving social gatherings to make an important call or having to decline invites because of early morning meetings. Not to mention lectures – it is increasingly difficult to keep attendance up when your passion is calling. Alongside these drawbacks there are a few glaring benefits. Being able to hit my bucket list is great; in my short time at university I have been sky diving, been on multiple track days, flown a glider, reignited my love for piano and pretty much anything else that has taken my fancy. I am never bored as people contact me with various business ideas or software ideas, which I always love to hear about.

“Believe me, I am no authority on business or technology. Most of my beliefs have come from what little personal experience I have and the writings of great founders including Peter Thiel, Elon Musk and Ben Horowitz. Whenever people ask me “How?” I never know quite what to say. My normal response is “Do what you love”, but on reflection this gives the wrong impression of running a business. Even when you love what you do and the industry you are in, there are always tough times. I recall having to stay locked in my room for three whole days during freshers’ week while I remedied a problem with a server. It’s a stressful experience and you may sometimes ask yourself, is this worth it? The answer is very personal; you have to decide what you actually want and if a business will help you achieve that.

“Once you have decided where you want to go, that is when you can start to consider how. Just because you see someone being successful doesn’t mean what he or she does is the only way to achieve your goal. You simply need to pick your passion and research. Research until you are the authority on the subject, then you are in the best position to dominate a marketplace. Most of my mistakes (of which I have many) have occurred during this process; a number of my failed ventures, including a shift management system for hotels and a time keeping programme for freelancers, ultimately failed due to lack of research, leading to dissolution of the companies. The worst feeling is losing an investor’s money: not only does it affect your credibility, but also your relationships. Thankfully I have never fallen out irreparably with an investor, but it is always easier to avoid the situation with ample research.

“Just because you see someone being successful doesn’t mean what he or she does is the only way to achieve your goal”

“Once you have a business idea and you have done your research, the most important power is courage. You need courage to take that step from idea to reality. This is a key ability, which separates many people from successful entrepreneurs. If you never take that step you never know what could have been and your mark on the world could never go down in history. Of course, you shouldn’t do it to make a name for yourself, this leads to arrogant CEO’s and alienated employees, but if you use your efforts building your brand or your product it will inevitably lead to accreditation.

“During my time at university a number of friends and random students have approached me with ideas, some good, some not so good… One thing I see in common is that they are passionate until you point out one problem in the idea. Sometimes they vow to go and remedy the problem or rethink the idea, but many I never hear from again. It is possible that they went away to discover the idea was not viable for some reason, but the more likely reason is they simply gave up. If there was one message I would give to them, and you as a reader, it’s take that step from idea to reality because you never know what could happen.”

Mitchell Fasanya

 Featured image: Flazingo Photos via Flickr. No changes made to this image. Image license found here

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