I Chose to Drop Out of University and became a Startup Founder
The Pros and Cons for Young Aspiring Startup Founders
I dropped out of my university, Singapore Management University and stopped pursuing my degree in Information Systems. I was supposed to be graduating in Spring 2021.
Why did I drop out and leave the comfort of an expected regular salary after Graduation?
I did it because I wanted to build something that’s mine.
Not something that belongs to my boss or whoever else.
Something that is built on my own terms, by me without any interference.
Something no one can take away from me.
Something that can never be erased from my resume. A project of my own.
Something that I can show to my friends and family and say “I did this.”
I also wanted to build something that can truly change lives.
Something that can help people with real problems in their daily lives.
That is why I founded Cudy Technologies in 2018.
I am not going back on my decision because it is the best decision I have ever made so far in my life. It feels awesome being able to wake up every morning and do what I love to do.
It feels awesome being able to wake up every morning and do what I love to do.
How did I come to this decision?
It was not easy. I agonised over this decision for almost a year and there were many times when I thought giving up on my startup was the only option left. That is why I would like to share my story with you and hopefully, it will help you in making your own decision in the future.
The first time I came across the idea of dropping out of university was when I read “The $100 Startup” by Chris Guillebeau. It was a great book which talked about how the author quit his job to travel around the world for a year before starting his own business from scratch.
The idea of dropping out of university was something that I could relate to as I was doing the same thing during my Freshmen year in SMU. I took a year off to focus on building my startup before coming back for a semester in 2019 and deciding to drop out of university.
I had been working on a long-term project for close to a year without any pay. I was doing it because I wanted to make a difference in people’s lives. I was working on it with the goal of making myself and others financially independent by the time I am in my 30s.
I saw the opportunity for me to do something bigger than myself by working on this project full-time. It also gave me an opportunity to make money online while doing something that I loved doing. The only problem was that I did not have enough money at the time, so when someone asked me if I wanted to drop out of university, I didn’t think twice about taking up on his offer.
When you start your own business, you need savings, so quitting school and becoming self-employed is just as good as dropping out of university. — Chris Guillebeau, “The $100 Startup”
It was an easy decision because this would allow me to work on my project full-time and make money online at the same time without needing financial support from anyone else (including my parents). This meant that I could save up money quickly and reinvest it into my startup instead.
That is how Cudy Technologies came into existence in 2018; we started with just S$5,000 in capital and have grown our business progressively ever since then!
The only problem: It did not work out as well as planned…
Working on a long-term project is very hard when you are working full-time and trying to build your business at the same time.
Everyone wants everything done yesterday but when you have limited resources or budget, things can be very difficult if you try rushing them too much. This is why only those who are truly passionate about what they do can survive such businesses.
If you are working full-time and trying to build your business at the same time, it is very hard to complete everything on time. This is why only those who are truly passionate about what they do can survive such businesses.
I quickly realised that burning the midnight oil did not always guarantee success in my startup. There were times where I had to work on something very hard for a week and come back with nothing because I did not have the resources or budget to do what I wanted. This is when the idea of dropping out of university crossed my mind again. “If I could quit, could it be worth it?”
I started talking about dropping out of university with my team members and they all seemed to agree with me. They were all polytechnic and university students and were spending their nights working on Cudy Technologies as well.
There were also talks about doing an ICO later on if everything went well but that was dropped because we only had S$15,000 then. The other option was working full-time jobs while building our startup at the same time.
We even had plans to set up an office space somewhere else so that it would be easier for us to meet up and work together. That was also dropped because I wanted to see if I could do it on my own first before bringing in anyone else.
But the big question remained: “What would happen if I worked full-time jobs while trying to build my business at the same time?”
Before finally deciding on dropping out of university, I have made a mental checklist of pros and cons about doing either option. Here is how it went:
Pros and Cons of Becoming a Full-time Startup Founder vs Working Full-time Jobs While Trying to Build Your Business at the Same Time:
I can work on my business full-time.
I can make money online while working on my business.
I can go back to university later if things don’t work out for me in the future.
I lose the regular salary I was expected to receive when I graduate.
Drop out of university means my parents have to spend more for me to do my degree from scratch.
It may be hard to find a job later if things don’t work out for me in the future.
I can’t have a regular salary to pay for all of my expenses.
I might not have enough money to build my business in the long-term.
I can’t save up as much money as I would like because I need to spend on my business instead. (This was my main concern.)
I have less time than before to dedicate towards building my business. (This was also a big concern for me.)
It is not easy getting enough sleep when you are studying full-time and trying to build your business at the same time. (This is something that affects your productivity and your mental health.)
In conclusion, I had a lot of pros and cons with each option. So I gave it some more thought before finally making up my mind.
I thought about this for a long time but I didn’t want to sell myself short by studying full-time while trying to build my business at the same time. I wanted to see if I could do it on my own first before bringing in anyone else. So I did.
About the Author
I am the Founder of Cudy Technologies (www.cudy.co), a full-stack EdTech startup helping teachers and students teach and learn better. I am also a mentor and angel investor in other Startups of my other interests (Proptech, Fintech, HRtech, Ride-hailing, C2C marketplaces and SaaS). You can also find me on Cudy for early-stage Startup Founder mentorship and advice.
You can connect with me on Linkedin (https://www.linkedin.com/in/alexanderlhk) and let me know that you are a reader of my Medium posts in your invitation message.