The Dorm-Room Startup Mindset

from Seth’s Blog

“Selling enough records to make another record.”

Rick Rubin started DefJam in his NYU dorm. Steve and I built TSR in Curtis Hall, and I went on to build my publishing business in my wife’s dorm at NYU. It happens more than you might guess, and the reason it works is something you can use, even if you’re not in college or living in a dorm…

You sell enough records to make another record.

You’re not trying to sell the company or to make a huge payroll or to make sure the stock options are in place. You’re building something.

More here.

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11 Responses to The Dorm-Room Startup Mindset

  1. Suzaun Shahamat February 13, 2015 at 6:36 pm #

    This article was actually inspiring. So many people have started business’s and invented products from there college dorm room. I personally have never dormed, but maybe I should now! The article states a valid point that starting a business you don’t need a whole lot of money, you need a great idea and a fun personality. Sometimes people are so competitive they forget to have fun and in life you will come across many things that you will succeed in as well as a plethora amount of things you may fail at. One thing for sure is you have to have fun either way, because if you take things too seriously you may never get the motivation to keep trying.

    I think a group of people can come up with a much more creative versus just one person. Peoples opinion matter because one mind cannot think of all possible aspects of a certain product, for example, and its areas that may turn into failure eventually. I always watch this show thats called “Shark Tank” and its about people who come to these billionaire investors, who are the sharks, and pitch there idea or their product. If an amazing idea walks through the door chances are that all the sharks will fight for it are high. One episode in particular that I was watching was of a group of college girls that made different flavored peanut butters. There business sky rocketed after one of the sharks invested in there product. Now that I think of it, I may pretend the room in my home is a dorm and start brainstorming the second I get home!

  2. Matthew Goldberg March 27, 2015 at 5:33 pm #

    After reading Seth’s blog, it made me want to do something better with my free time. This blog post, although short, had a lot of inspiration about how you can make things and enter the business world while inside your dorm. Seth mentioned the internet and being online a bunch of times in this post, and I found that interesting. This was because I think it is the internet that is allowing us to interact with businesses and others to make money. I like this blog because Seth has first-hand experience with building a company while starting off in a dormitory hall. I feel that this probably happens pretty often that teenagers group together and come up with an idea and it grows into a possible company or business. I wish I had some creative inspiration that caused me to invent something with my friends or peers, what college student doesn’t?

  3. Chun Chen April 4, 2015 at 9:33 pm #

    The article identified an idea of starting one’s own business in his leisure time in dorm-room. The place where one starts a business may not be in a particular dorm-room. The important part is making full usage of your free time. To us as college students of business school, we have learned much knowledge and processes of how a business works. What we do not have is experience. Hence, starting our own small business can be helpful. As pointed out in the article, when we don’t have money to invest, we can build something useful and fresh and interesting online.
    I think the major goal is not to make money but for your interests. One can start developing his business in any field which he is interested in. Therefore, he will probably beginning thinking about some interesting and innovative ideas that will differentiate himself from others. That would be a great chance to gain experience in the real business world and improve ourselves. In real business world today, innovation can always attract customers. Several successful companies are keeping their products innovative and useful, like Google and Apple. Creativity would be one of the most important part when we start our own dorm-room business.

  4. Kevin Giron May 1, 2015 at 2:50 pm #

    This is a very appealing post. Seth mentions that Rick Rubin started Def Jam in his dorm, he built TSR in his dorm, and he created his publishing business in his wife’s dorm. This happens a lot, the idea of Facebook came to Mark Zuckerberg when he was dorming at Harvard and you always hear stories of companies starting out in their parents garage.

    I like the fact the Seth mentions we are afraid to try the thing that might not work. Several businesses get their breakthrough ideas by accident. They may have been trying to come up with the next big thing and failed until they stumble upon something that in front of them the whole time.

    I watch the show Shark Tank and many of the entrepreneurs often state that they have quit their day jobs to focus primarily on their business. So I find it interesting that Seth says you don’t have to quit your day job. When you put it in perspective we have so much time that we don’t use. We get 24 hours everyday to do something beneficial with our lives.

  5. Alfred Valli May 1, 2015 at 3:16 pm #

    This article is inspiring. It was very fresh to see an article like this that is so technical but shows that there are opportunities and it is up to you to go out and get them. It was not surprising to hear that this person made their company out of a dorm room. Today we have seen some very notable dorm room start up companies. For instance Mark Zuckerberg is famous for inventing Facebook from his dorm room. This article wants to inspire people to make their ideas a reality and even if you’re in school or busy you can still make a difference.

    The biggest part that stood out to me was near the end. The writer says that you don’t have to quit your day job to start something. You have weekends and evenings and other time to do things the writer says. It shows that you don’t need that much time and if you have the ambition and the attitude you can make your idea a success. And importantly you don;t have to be perfect or the best to start. you just have to have a good idea and have a product or service that will interest people and make them want it when it is new and fresh. People are always looking for the big pay day or the new idea that can make them rich quick. The truth is that it doesn’t happen like that, you need to put time and hard work into something to make it a success and if you can do that you will succeed at whatever you put your mind to.

  6. Christopher Auer May 1, 2015 at 4:02 pm #

    This article is inspiring to anyone interested in becoming an entrepreneur. It lets them know that even if you don’t think you have the means to start your idea, you can still do it. Seth isn’t asking anyone to drop everything and take off with their idea, but he wants to let them know that it is ok to try things. Now these startups aren’t going to always work, and they aren’t going to always make a lot of money. But it is important that we put our ideas out there because someone may like it. If Mark Zuckerberg doesn’t start FaceBook, where are we? His idea changed many lives. Who knows what the next idea is.

  7. Ryan Jaccoud April 8, 2016 at 10:09 pm #

    I absolutely loved this short article. Very often I will find myself day dreaming of new inventions or business ideas that I could come up with. The only problem with this is that I always feel like it wouldn’t be possible to get one of these things started because there is so much the goes in to starting at business, but like the article said, DefJam was started in a dorm room at NYU. I think that this simple fact should be extremely inspiring to young people who are thinking of these great ideas but hold themselves back because they think they don’t have what it takes. They think they don’t have enough time or money to get things started. Although they may think they are just being realistic, they may not be. Things take time to build and this includes a business. I believe that if you have a great idea and put hard work into it whenever you can, anyone can become a success. I think that although this article is very short, it holds a very great point.

  8. John Phillips March 17, 2017 at 2:20 am #

    In this very short, but concise piece, Seth gives the reader a subtle business plan to follow, that does not require a gurus help, or thousands of dollars to start. Rather, he gives a simple model that is practical and makes perfect sense. He believes that the best way to start a business is to invest in yourself; create an idea you believe in, follow on that idea, and continue to improve it. He believes that this model will get people interested, and if it is something, you truly believe in, you should have no problem selling it. This practical advice is a solid foundation for starting a business anywhere, and having success.
    He refers to this as starting a business in your dorm. This really struck me, as a college student, because it really shows that anything is possible. We college students have so much free time, and in that free time what do we do? He suggests sitting down and brainstorming. Maybe you have an idea that will change the world, or help millions of people. Whatever it may be, these ideas should not be overlooked. If you think of things in your free time, write them down, develop them, strategize. It really is an effective plan that will guarantee future success. Creating an idea, and sticking by it, will ensure that your idea will become the best it can be. Record labels, and many other big companies were started in garages, dorm rooms, and other small spaces. These entrepreneurs showed that it is possible to make it, even if your chances seem slim. This goes back to the idea of creating something you believe in. Once you have a foundational idea, and begin developing it, this gives you many opportunities. You can expand the idea, come up with sales and marketing strategy, and in turn invest in yourself. In taking on something like this, you are investing in yourself, by teaching yourself, and learning through experience, skills necessary to succeed in life. Whether they are communication skills, sales skills, writing skills, and overall business savvy, you are becoming a better person by doing this.
    Seth is trying to tell us, not be scared, things may be risky, and they may not always work out. If you have an idea that you believe in with your whole heart, then pursue it. Having this dorm room mindset will allow you to not make risky choices, or potentially harmful decisions. This is why the idea is the most important part of becoming a businessperson. It is clear that tot many people are scared of starting a business because they might fail, lose money, lose reputation, or simply fall flat on their faces. While some of these things very well may happen, you cannot let these possibilities consume you. Seth is trying to tell us this; if you have a mindset of tranquility, determination, and a unique idea, if you combine these with a solid work ethic, this guarantees success. Seth laid out perfectly, his vision of how to think when starting a business. It truly is unique and provides deep insight on how to think about the process.

  9. Taylor Salomon March 17, 2017 at 4:33 pm #

    I always wanted to create a dorm- room startup. Within two months at Seton Hall, my roommate and I identified a problem most college students had. It regarded belts. Our suitemate always wished she had a belt to keep her jeans from slipping. She was tired of pulling up her jeans every time she was standing. Another time, I overheard a male student complain about his belt. He wished belt companies would poke more holes into belts because the fixed loops never satisfied him. I understood where he was coming from. I suffer with a similar issue. After hearing common complaints, I realized this was a campus wide issue. This obviously isn’t a student government issue, but I knew it would be a great dorm- room startup.
    This article focuses on the driven mindset of people who venture into start- ups. Did you know Rick Rubin started DefJam in his NYU dorm? A lot of creativity is stirring over at New York University because the author of this article also created a start- up. An interesting point this author brings up about dorm- room startup mindset is in the following statement: “it happens more than you might guess, and the reason it works is something you can use, even if you’re not in college or living in a dorm.” He is saying it wasn’t a coincidence that three NYU students published a business in a dorm. These students were results driven. They put blood, sweat, and tears into their businesses. It is important to note that start-up businesses are not perfect. In regards to every business, there are always ups and downs. You cannot become a multi- billionaire overnight. It is simply impossible. However, the article creates an analogy that the mindset has to be similar of this phase: “you sell enough records to make another record”. You are probably wondering what does records have to do with a mindset. Well, think of it this way, you have to always think two to three steps ahead. If you sell enough records, you make zero profit. However, if you sell another record on top of it all, then you have a profit. Not everyone thinks two to three steps ahead, which is why their business fails miserably. This article teaches aspiring startups to think outside of the box in order to achieve success.
    The article refers to being ahead of the game as “building something”. You are building you brand as well as your company in the process. The main goal of start ups should not be “a huge payroll” or making “sure the stock options are in place”. The article states the main goal should be attracting people that will be consistent customers so your business will boom. Specifically, it is building something “so great that people will pay for it in advance”. Eager customers are the best. They have high expectations. They anticipate great products. If the business provides great results, then it has acquired potential and loyal customers.
    The article also refers to the downside of startups. Too often, startup businesses don’t take risks and end up failing. There is no certainty that a startup business will bloom into a multi- million corporation. There is just no way of knowing from the start. An idea can be so good but if the business plan is not executed well or customers are not eager to sign up or pay in advance, then the entire idea is a bust. The article emphasizes on this at the end because people “forget about useful, fresh, or interesting” strategies. Great advice in the article is to “expose ourselves to things that are generous and new and fun”. I think every college student pondering about creating a dorm- room startup should have this mentality. Student Erin Westcott even agree with this piece of advice. She goes on to say that this is “why so many business endeavors fail every year, and it is also why idea generators like Steve Jobs, Mark Zuckerberg, Larry Page, and Sergey Brin were so successful. They brought useful, fresh and interesting ideas to the table and they struggled through the tough times to build their respective businesses up and create something worthwhile.” On that note, I encourage all dorm- room startups to follow this article’s advice on having a useful, fresh, or interesting mindset.

  10. Zachary Crockett November 14, 2019 at 10:43 am #

    If there is anything to be taken away from this article it would be that students have the capability to create their own brand. That we do not have to wait until post-graduation or when we have accumulated enough income to begin a project. I believe individuals typically get caught up with the logistics or steps in order to create an idea, rather than just doing. I especially love how he uses the example of Def Jam records being started in an NYU dorm. Creating an idea in that environment takes courage. The courage that every young entrepreneur or success-driven individual has in order to create an improbable idea into a reality is remarkable. Reading this piece, I have been inspired to begin my own ideas and experiment with what I will want to achieve for the rest of my livelihood. All in all, I really enjoy how Seth’s work is straightforward, with no beating around the bush, the reader can already surmise what is being said without critical analysis.

  11. Kevin Orcutt November 15, 2019 at 8:15 pm #

    This is one of my favorite pieces that I have read in a while that provides a great deal of motivation in such a short span of words. What Seth is trying to do in this piece is telling people that anything is possible. Often times, like he said, many people overthink what has to be done. They are too involved with every detail that they psychologically put themselves out of the game before they even tried to get into it. The fact that those people were able to start companies while being in their college dorm room is a true testament to what can be done. Full devotion does not have to be given to something right away which means that we can stay in our dorms or keep our jobs. We must develop ideas that we are passionate about and that hopefully other people will be passionate about too. He lets us know that we will know when other people are passionate about it when they are willing to buy something in advance which then allows you to get funding you need to deliver them their desired product that you make. To get to that point of delivering something that everyone wants is perseverance and new thinking. Like he says in the passage, the things that succeed aren’t what we may think will at first, but everything is worth a try. If you do not try something because you think it will fail, you never actually get to know if it will fail. This causes something that people despise worse than failing, which is regret. I also like how at the end of the passage he mentions how little time it takes to develop the ideas that the biggest people at the head of the companies they started came up with. The issue is that no one takes the time anymore to explore their own strengths, weaknesses, and desires. People are too busy spending their time on their phones, watching shows, or just on the internet to put their brain to work and do better for themselves. In my opinion as much as the internet is a great platform to build on and assist people, I think that it has also destroyed many young people that could’ve been so much more than they are currently because they spend too much time doing things that aren’t benefiting them. Watching the next season of Friends is doing nothing to further our knowledge or economical wealth and should be put to a minimum. I know I will be concentrating on the more I can accomplish with the little I have rather than just sitting by after reading this article.

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